Chapter 5 - The Mystery Emerges
The Mystery Emerges
The projected news report paused.
The GUN Commander did not turn away from it, ice-blue eyes fixed on the giant screen in front of him. The last twenty minutes had been pandemonic. A Robotnik Egg Carrier over Green Hill Zone, Sonic the Hedgehog’s accomplice Miles Prower’s house destroyed and two EMP’s of unimaginable scale, and separate from any nuclear blast, a few hours apart in two different locations on the same continent, and the connection between all was absent.
U.F military had shown reluctance to engage the Egg Carrier – the Commander would say wisely. This was a violation of the Tri-Alliance and open invitation to war, but it was no invitation he wanted to accept any time soon.
“Rockwell’s looking good.”
The Commander took his eyes from the wall to look at Rouge. The darkness of the briefing room would seem like broad daylight to her eyes… and ears.
“The reporter – that woman was our whistleblower on the Bayne threat…” For some reason, Rouge seem to find that funny. The foot of one of her crossed legs jiggled languidly as she sat spread out in her seat in the first row.
The Commander took a breath, “Agent Rouge, if there was a purpose behind that comment I’d like to hear it.”
A gravelly voice from the second row spoke. “There was no purpose, sir, Rouge was only hoping you’d remember one of her more… manipulative, triumphs.” The light of the projector did not quite reach him, so Shadow spoke from half-darkness, hands clasped between his knees and shoulders hunched over. His irises burned red.
“I’m allowing the Egg Carrier to escape, provided it continues to run.” Said the Commander, “We don’t want this escalated. The ship’s above MagnoThermal curvature now, and was heading for the Atlantic when its cloaking took full effect and our signals stopped bouncing.”
Shadow nodded. That was wise.
“I need to meet with the Generals again in seven minutes to know if we can halt the Egg Carrier. The EMP’s are your priority. Not all of our equipment is protected from them – if this is a weapon, we are in serious trouble…”
“Have we any reason to assume it was one?” asked Rouge.
Rouge was a bat, a fearless G.U.N superspy of a few years, a member of Shadow’s Team Dark, but first and foremost a treasure hunter; one teeming with feminine charm. She wore a tight body suit with a heart-shaped breastplate, long white gloves and white thigh-high boots. Her purple wings stretched over five feet across. Her loyalty had been earned by Shadow, and bought with a hefty paycheque by GUN.
“You’re here because I want you to find out.”
Shadow nodded. Being in cryosleep for the entire Robotnik War he had not seen an Egg Carrier’s full devastation first-hand, but he had roamed far through the Zones they had been wielded on. A lone Egg Carrier was more than a match for a mega-city. It was with sadness he would not have the chance to see one first hand that he would accept the Commander’s assignment.
“As you know, one of the EMP’s detonated in Hill Top Zone, not far from an operating GUN base - Hubrijk. Strange and stranger reports are filtering in from the surviving GUN soldiers…”
Shadow and Rouge both looked up, and Rouge smile dropped.
“In-progress reports have been sent to you, it’s all we have right now. Whatever happened, it resulted in MIA’s and casualities,” said the Commander, sincere regret in his voice, “It’s not on the public news channels as of yet, but it’s only a matter of time.”
Shadow did not so much as blink, but he understood the true meaning. As per GUN protocol, it took six hours regardless of the situation to officially confirm anybody as KIA.
“General Gungrave was supervising Hubrijk when the EMP detonated roughly ten miles east, close to a civilian settlement. We are still waiting for him to report in.”
Shadow held back a grimace. A dead GUN General would pull back productivity in a crisis. “Meanwhile there is the EMP in Green Hill Zone, not far from the current dwelling of Sonic the Hedgehog’s close companion Miles Prower.”
The Commander raised his face to his Agents. “How involved do you think they are?”
“As involved as it takes for Robotnik to reveal an Egg Carrier.” chuckled Rouge.
Shadow said, “We don’t scare Robotnik, and he hates Sonic.” The Commander looked like he was about to say something, but Shadow was not going to let him. He was a good man, a great leader, but he had not seen Sonic and Robotnik in action. He did not believe in the human element that existed in their battles, and saw only an overpowered boy taking on a superpower best left to adults. Shadow knew differently. “My gut tells me Robotnik wouldn’t launch an attack two doors down from the only person on Mobius he considers a legitimate threat. He likely knew something was going to happen, but is not the perpetrator and was likely curious.”
Rouge said, “But if the dynamic-duo were there when this second EMP happened, chances are they might have some proper intel.”
“They, may even be the perpetrators.” said the Commander. Shadow did not contradict him.
“Which still doesn’t explain why there were two within a few hours of each other of exactly the same power in two completely unrelated places, all of their usual accomplices were far away from the area.”
“Do you want us in Hill Top?” asked Shadow.
“No. Information before I send you chasing ghosts. Sonic the Hedgehog is once again involved and once again practicing vigilantism. He’s our only lead. Find him, and get him back here.”
The Tornado had suffered moderate damage, but nothing Sonic did not think Tails could fix within a day. They had only just landed in Marble Zone, a beautiful zone that glimmered like diamond from the air and heated like a sauna on the ground. The natural waterways winding through the shimmering earth borders sometimes doubled as natural hot springs from volcanic activity beneath. Indeed, lava lakes were common here, though authorities had done their best to cordon them off since Sonic had last been here.
Now on land and sheltered by arching, smooth-barked trees and rocks of marble, they had gotten down to repairing the plane. Beneath, Nickel helped Tails make minor repairs to their plane – his psychokinesis was remarkably useful in bending parts of the hull back into shape.
Sonic had found somewhere to rest, and was sunning himself in the comfortable branches of a tree directly above the Tornado.
Tails called up to him, “And you’re sure it felt no different than usual?”
actually think this would all turn out so well.”
“My workshop got destroyed!”
“Well, apart from that, I got to hit the SuperState,” said Sonic, quickly.
“And lost all our emeralds.” said Tails, flatly. Sonic gave him a sheepish grin from amongst the long, green leaves of the Marble Zone pines.
Tails just sighed heavily. “Well, it’s what we do. I heard the U.F military have let the Egg Carrier escape. What bothers me is I don’t know where it now.”
Sonic said, “I doubt we’ve seen the last of it! And it was always gonna be a long shot to keep the emeralds together and locked away.”
“Maybe. But the SuperState felt no different?”
“Nope. I mean you got a point – after what the emerald did back at your workshop I was thinking it was gonna power-up the SuperState or something” -
-“Or just blow you up,” muttered Tails, but either Sonic ignored him or didn’t hear him. Nickel looked between them wildly, barely following the conversation.
-“ but yeah,
it just followed along and when I lost the rest of them, it went to.”
“At least you held on to one.”
“That I did.”
With a small flash a blue stone with a brilliant cut appeared in Sonic’s hand. He flipped and caught it a few times. He leant back against the tree. “’Least that gets rid of Metal for awhile. Until Robotnik rebuilds him again, that is.”
“Maybe next he’ll build a MetalTails!”
“But we do have something to worry about,” said Nickel. “Where is my Rainbow Emerald exactly..?” he looked at Sonic expectantly, “I know you don’t have it...”
“Oh yeah,” said Sonic. He had temporarily forgotten about Nickel. He swung his legs over the branch so he could sit and better see Nickel below. “Well... um, so I couldn’t absorb it like… but when I lost the SuperState it flew away with the rest of the emeralds.” He spoke the last very quickly.
“It’s not something he can help,” said Tails in Sonic’s defence, “It’s just what happens when he drops out of the SuperState.”
“Trust me, it’s a pain for us as well. We quite literally spend half our time running around trying to find them. We finally get them all, in which time everyone’s favourite despot has built something so big and bad I need to go gold to take it down. Then they spread all over the planet.”
Nickel’s face, if possible, went whiter.
“But then how will we find it!? It could take… years.”
Sonic shook his head, “Nah, normally no more than a few months. They don’t stay quiet for long. Wherever they are, something will be happening, something big. And Knuckles is, like, programmed with sat-nav for them.”
Tails said confidently, “We’ll get it back.”
Nickel tried to ignore Sonic’s flippant attitude. “But I... I have to get back... to wherever I came from.”
“And we’re here to help you do that, Nickel!” said Tails earnestly.
“But you have no reason to” – he protested.
- “Do we need a reason?” asked Tails tiredly.
“Or do you want a reason?” said Sonic. Nickel only looked back at him seriously.
“Well fine then. You say it’s your fault Eggman attacked? So then it’s your fault the emeralds are gone, right?”
Nickel looked slightly dumbstruck for a moment, caught between guilt and shock.
“Well, I didn’t actually say it was my fault…”
“So don’t you think you should stick with us until we have all the emeralds again?”
“And you owe me for losing the Rainbow emerald, and for when I saved you from Metal Sonic,” said Nickel, trying to sound snappy.
Sonic snickered, “Fine then, you help me get the other six Chaos emeralds back, and I’ll help you regain your memory and get the Rainbow emerald back. Deal?”
Sonic flipped down from the tree, landing heavily directly in front of Nickel. He outstretched a hand.
“So, deal?” asked Sonic so charismatically Nickel couldn’t help but feel a sense of adventure, even amusement, creep up on him. It was as if Sonic had patched up his confidence. They had done everything they could to keep him safe so far, anyway.
“Deal,” agreed Nickel.
Sonic winked, and launched straight back into the tree, some ten feet above them, in a single jump.
“How do you do that?” gasped Nickel, stepping back in amazement, neck craned up to where Sonic was now swinging himself into position.
“Eh… it’s a long story. Isn’t it, Tails?”
“Longest story I know.”
Nickel couldn’t help it. He laughed in wonder, and went back to work on the Tornado. He didn’t know who these people were, but something about them made him feel safe and comfortable, even if they were reluctant to tell him everything.
“So far we have three clues as to who I am then,” said Nickel while using his psychokinesis to meld the bullet holes back together. “One: the Rainbow Emerald. Two: something about a snake and the Rainbow emerald… and a museum.”
“What?” asked Tails and Sonic, in unison.
“You didn’t mention that before?” said Sonic.
“I know, it sounds… stupid, a-and it’s fuzzy,” Nickel jabbered, “Somebody gave me the emerald, or at least found it with me, and then… did something bad. Something about a museum. No, I did something bad. Wrecked something, and I remember being scared, and wishing I could get away. He tried to attack me, something about a snake called ‘Nyx’, and next thing I know I was with Sonic. And I have a brother… but can’t remember any more than that.”
Nickel’s ears drooped as he searched his memory, and came up with nothing.
“Did this guy, ‘Nyx’, chase you here?” asked Sonic. Nickel only shrugged.
“I don’t know… but I have the feeling he’s not somebody I’d like to see again.”
“And wherever you came from had a Green Hill Zone, because you recognised the name,” said Tails. “Perhaps you moved through time!”
“That’s what I said!” said Sonic, annoyed.
“But that’s craz – ” started Nickel, before redeeming himself. Sonic thought it a wise decision.
“You could even have come from an alternate dimension,” pointed out Sonic, taking a quick trip down memory lane, “like our friend Blaze.”
“That’s a good point,” said Tails thoughtfully.
“Or maybe” –
Before Nickel could finish what was to be a sarcastic comment, the Tornado’s computer started up, and a blizzard of static filled the screen. But if you looked closer you could glimpse something red in between the static.
“Bzzzzz Hey! Tails! C’mon you stupid bzzzzzz wor- bzzzz.”
“Is that...?” wondered Tails aloud.
Sonic sat up to get a better look at the computer on the plane’s many dashboards (there was three computer screens in total spanning the area). Tails flew into the cockpit, saying: “I think we know that voice...”
After twiddling a few dials Tails managed to clear up the screen enough for them to see a rather angry looking echidna.
“Knuckles!” cried Tails happily. “Long time no see!” Knuckles looked the same as he always did; bright red fur, dreadlocked quills, and aggravated. On his hands he wore two white boxing gloves with two spikes on each along the knuckles. On his chest was white fur the shape of an upwards-facing crescent moon.
“Just turn the dial until my voice comes through with minimal static,” said Tails clearly and patiently, then, slightly annoyed, “I set this up so it was basically a radio!”
“Oh good,” said Knuckles, “I finally got this stupid thing working. And radio’s don’t have ‘security clients’ and ‘encoding programs’!”
“I made it click and drag!” huffed Tails, now positively baffled at Knuckles’ quandary.
“Where are you? That doesn’t look like your workshop...”
Sonic jumped down from the tree to land on the plane. He said, “We’ve landed in Marble Zone. Long story... his workshop’s destroyed...”
“It is?!” exclaimed Knuckles.
“Well it was wrecked before and then SuperSonic kinda totalled it…”
Tails just nodded sadly. Tails had put a great deal of effort into that workshop, and Sonic hadn’t liked breaking the news to him (he hadn’t meant to destroy it). Sonic knew that Tails would be caught between rational thinking and sentimental compassion on this. On the one glove, the workshop was nothing but a building. On another, it was home, and that had always been a sensitive subject to Tails.
“I’m sorry, Tails,” began Sonic, but before he could continue, Knuckles interrupted.
“What do you mean you destroyed it? What about the emeralds?!” he cried. That was typical Knuckles: abrupt and to the point. Sonic assumed he had missed the SuperSonic reference.
“The Master Emerald’s been going nuts. Chaos Energy has sky-rocketed out of balance, it would have been a couple hundred miles north of here – it finished with a massive spike in positive energy, it seems to have settled now.”
-“Yeah... that was probably us. Well, SuperSonic. We... um... we, well he, actually, lost the emeralds...”
Tails smiled sheepishly at Sonic.
“YOU WHAT!? Wait, SuperSonic!?”
“Yes, Knuckles, I said that before. Twice.”
“I knew it!” shouted Knuckles as Sonic came into sight. “I should have figured you’d be involved in this! First the Master Emerald goes wacko then Angel Island does the same then I find out Tails workshop is destroyed –!”
“Easy, Knuckles,” said Sonic, the same way an adult may tell a child off for having a tantrum. “We’re just as confused as you – almost.”
“I told you the emeralds should have stayed with me! Something was bound to happen to them! How long until Robotnik or GUN or some dirty Pirate gets one!”
“Just stop gettin’ your tail in a twist and let me tell you what’s been going on!” said Sonic impatiently.
“Who’s that?” asked Nickel to Tails while Sonic jumped into the story.
“Knuckles the Echidna; he’s the guardian of the Master Emerald, the balancing force of the Chaos Emeralds. He lives on Angel Island, which actually floats because of the power emitted by the Master Emerald.”
“Cool...” said Nickel, sounding half-disbelieving. Tails did not bother to push the subject, he was used to the reaction.
“Wait, how much does he know? Where in the Trinity did he come from?”
“He doesn’t know.”
“How much do you remember?”
“Sketches,” shrugged Nickel, “Everything I’ve already told you.”
Sonic said, “He came literally out of thin air, Robontik knew he was coming. Knux, he had an eighth emerald.”
Knuckles’ face exhibited shock and disbelief as his entire world shifted.
“That… it’s impossible, he couldn’t of.”
sure it is,” said Tails, “It’s got many colours instead of one. Sonic can’t absorb
it, SuperSonic couldn’t either. Based on how I’ve studied them before that
would mean it’s Chaos-neutral, except whenever Nickel touches it.”
“It’s not neutral – the Master Emerald is struggling to keep it all in balance. An eighth emerald would explain what’s going on. You need to bring it over here… I, I think there actually might be something about this in the mural rooms.”
“Um, we can’t,” said Sonic, “It blasted away with the rest of the emeralds when I came off the SuperState. The Echidna’s knew about an eighth emerald?”
“Of course it did.” Replied Knuckles with sarcasm, “And I don’t know, I haven’t been down there in a long time.”
“So we’re off to Angel Island?” asked Tails happily.
“Well, you better, seeing as you’re homeless now. By the way you did say it was Marble Zone you guys crashed in right?”
“I did not crash!” said Tails stoutly, “But yeah we’re in Marble Zone, why?”
A sly grin spread over Knuckles’ face. “Last I heard a good friend of ours was hanging about there...”
Alarm bells went off in Sonic’s head: “Knuckles, what friend!?”
With impossible timing, her voice rang from a short distance away. “SOONNNIIIIC! I just knew you’d come to find me, Sonic! We saw the Tornado!”
“Brilliant,” he muttered, resigning himself to the worst just before a pink hedgehog leapt from the trees and crystals, grabbing him around the middle in an overly-enthusiastic hug.
Despite Sonic’s loud and alarmed protests, Amy did not reserve any sense of self-preservation for either of them as she tackled Sonic from the plane and to the ground, Sonic landing heavily on his behind – his recent injuries twinging and stinging horribly, and he could add another one to that growing list: his poor, crushed tail.
“Oh, silly, aren’t you happy to see me?” cried Amy Rose happily, continuing to hug Sonic in a vice like grip.
“Amy, I think your hurting Mr Sonic,” said a polite voice from above. Cream the Rabbit poked her head out of the canopy and waved hello, her best friend Cheese the Chao doing the same.
“Chao-chao!” the blue little Chao squealed; cuteness incarnate.
At six years old Cream was one of the youngest members ever to join Team Sonic, but she was by no means a liability – in Sonic’s eyes she was a good distraction for Amy.
“Tails,” whispered Nickel, “Who are these people?”
“That’s Cream and Cheese up there... and the one strangling Sonic is Amy Rose the Hedgehog.”
At this point, Amy realised that she was actually hurting Sonic, and jumped back; mortified at how beaten up he looked.
Sonic went to rise to his feet, only to accidentally slump to the ground again, causing Amy to grow more hysterical.
“Amy, please calm down,” said Tails. “We ran into a bit of trouble...” he looked at Sonic to explain the days events, but the hedgehog seemed slightly predisposed as Amy pulled a first-aid kit from the Tornado (Mauro knows how she knew where it was) and busied herself painting him in plasters. “Well, Nickel, this is Amy and Cream...”
Fifteen minutes later Tail’s was finishing with: “Knuckles was just saying how we should make our way to Angel Island, as he thinks there may be a clue to whatever Nickel’s vision might be about.”
“I can’t believe that stupid copy tried to hurt my Sonic!” yelled Amy, though not turning away from her patient for a second.
“I’m glad you two made it out safely,” said Cream, gratefully.
“What’s this blue thing?” asked Nickel, poking Cheese curiously.
Furious, the little Chao slapped his hand away and began to angrily throw hundreds of “Chao Chao Chao Chao!” at him.
“Cheese is a Chao, please be nice to him. He’s the most gentle and intelligent, chao.” said Cream, tickling Cheese to calm him.
Cream smiled and beamed, evidently accepting his apology, before saying: “So you’re on another adventure?!” her face lighting up with joy and large rabbit ears rising in excitement as she said it.
“Looks like it,” smiled Tails.
“Oh! Can we come, too?” she squealed.
Sonic shot Tails a ‘don’t you dare’ look over Amy’s shoulder. He didn’t mind Cream, and being worshipped by chao wasn’t something one was easily bored of. No, it was the third member he did not think he could survive.
“We’d let you if we could, but the Tornado only seats three and Sonic really can’t be sitting on the wings or running below us all the way to Angel Island,” Tails lied. “And even if he did that still leaves one of us too many.”
“That’s okay! We brought the craft Sonic gave to Amy for her birthday!” said Cream sweetly, her high voice well mannered and polite.
Sonic interrupted furiously, “I told you that was joke from Knuckles! Tails made it!”
Cream only continued, “It’s not as big as your plane, and doesn’t have computers, but it sure is a very nice machine.”
“Yep,” said Amy while trying to stick a band-aid onto Sonic’s nose with little success, “it’s pretty cool and super fast. I was hoping that at one point you’d be able to fit it up with some gear, Tails.”
“Well, let’s hope you never have to use the sort of gear the Tornado’s got...”
“Oi! Enough chit-chat!” exploded Knuckles from the computer, “Either start making your way here OR DON’T COME AT A-!”
The screen reverted back to static.
“Oh no! I think Mr Knuckles accidentally broke his computer.” said Cream in a worried voice.
“Not sure how accidental it would have been,” said Amy, stepping back from Sonic, plastered comically with bandages and band-aid’s from head to toe.
“Ugh, I’ll fix it when I get there. So everyone’s in agreement then?’ asked Tails, “Nickel, most of all do you agree, do you think this is the right way to go?”
“Even if it wasn’t, how am I supposed to refuse a floating island!” he laughed. “But, what about my emerald?”
“I promise we’ll do that as soon as we’ve finished investigating Angel Island!” vowed Tails, “We have no idea where it could be, so it’s best to pick a direction and stick with it.”
“Amy, we should get back to our plane then.” said Cream, curtseying and beginning to walk away from the Tornado.
“Oh, okay then, Tails, you keep an extra close eye on Sonic okay? Nickel, that goes for you too!” She fixed the two in an intense glare as she said it.
Nickel laughed nervously, unsure whether he was serious or not.
“Hehe, you got it Amy,” grinned Tails, although a little timidly.
“Then let’s get outta here!” said Sonic, shaking off the numerous medical wonders Amy had plastered all over him and jumping into the gunners seat of the Tornado. Tails, only a second behind him, started up the plane as soon as he was seated.
Nickel quickly finished on the last bullet holes, making a mental note to repair them with more precision once they had landed, and jumped into his seat as Amy started crying out for Sonic and them all to take care.
The plane roared forward and left the green grass and marble-like rocks behind as it leapt into the sky. To save energy, Tails quickly transformed the plane back into its original bi-plane composure.
There was no gunner’s podium in this form, instead the gun faced the rear and the operator was granted a seat. Sonic stuck his feet up and promptly went to sleep, but Nickel craned his neck as far out as it could go to better look at the ground as everything rapidly got smaller and smaller – grinning with wonderment at the beautiful scenery.
This had to be the most interesting day of his life.