Golden fire roars through the sky like a comet falling to Earth, its reflection lighting up the turbulent dark waters as it speeds across the ocean towards its dark purpose. There is madness and malice in those glowing red eyes but apart from that, he recognised the face...
He blinked, startled by the vividity of the dream, but it was not enough to wake him. If anything, he was being pulled in deeper, his senses more lucid even than in waking, every sensation intensified almost to the point of pain.
It was one of *those* dreams, he knew. He hadn't been visited by one of them in a long time. For a given value of 'time'. He was surprised that there would be one right here, right now. Something important was about to happen to him. The dream was undoubtedly a portent of an event that was really happening and of vital consequence to at least one world.
"Okay," he said out loud. He still wasn't sure if there was an aware intelligence that was there to be addressed and could actually hear him but it made him feel better to at least pretend to talk to a real person. It was force of habit, from the days when he still had things like normal conversations and a timeline that flowed in a straight line in a single direction, "Is this what's happening now? In the past? Future I'm supposed to prevent? Are you going to actually show me them all or leave me to guess for my..."
A great city of black glass and cobalt light, its roads spreading out across the Continent, its spires reaching the skies so that its glamour could find a place among the stars. Cities everywhere, named after the celestial bodies. Beautiful, fragile works that could never be replaced. Then the trees rustle. Out from behind their dark branches come not birds but a great fleet of battleships, strange living machines, amalgamations of flesh, bone and steel. Their great white wings beat as one. They rise in perfect formation into the air, their warp engines an eagle's shriek to pierce the sky's cool breeze. He couldn't see where they were going, who was the intended recipient of the attack, but he knew all the same.
He was running after them, screaming at them to stop, even though he knew straight away that it was a vision of a past already decided, when the scene shifted...
Flames and devastation all around him, a destruction as unfettered as the madness in the voice that roared as it threw fire. It was a voice devoid of any mockery or triumph, of any pain or regret, only a simple satisfaction in finishing what it had begun, of burning up every single part of what it had set out to burn. Golden fire raining from the sky, laced with blood-red corruption, crimson as the spires that fell and crushed any who dared try to flee. At first he wondered if this was something to do with the war that had been about to start in the first vision, that maybe fate had changed the outcome, but there was nobody else there, not a single soldier or ship, only that God of Destruction in the sky.
The one who bore his face...
He yelled a challenge up at the other of him, but was ignored. Deciding that he had finished, the doppelgänger had risen above the flames and sped off into the darkness, to cauterise the other parts of history that he wished not to spread...
"Okay, OKAY, I get the picture, now are you going to show me a possible outcome of this that doesn't go horribly wrong? Even just the bit where I can do something about it? Any clues at all?" he yelled at the voice, who, as usual, didn't answer.
Time grabbed Modern Sonic, hurled him into a surging electric ocean of emerald, then, just as the choir of angels in his head told him he was about to drown, deposited him in a heap beside Classic Sonic. They were both sprawled on the floor next to a pile of chaos emeralds that Knuckles was gathering up in his spike-gloved fists and placing lovingly back onto their plinths, while periodically glaring at one or other of the three hedgehogs.
Modern Sonic counted again, just to make sure he hadn't counted himself twice or something. Three. The other two were glaring at each other with even more venom than Knuckles put into his own glare. If something had happened to the Emeralds, it was a major feat in itself to look more irritated than Knuckles.
"What the heck are you two doing?" demanded the third Sonic, who looked a little like himself at a stage in his life somewhere between Classic's time period and his current situation. He had placed a foot on top of an Emerald to stop Classic grabbing it, but quickly relinquished it when Knuckles shoved him aside.
"Sorry about the mess, dude, it's kind of my fault," said Modern Sonic, shrugging. He didn't like admitting that things were his fault but he still felt a crushing guilt at what he had done to his Classic counterpart. He also had no idea what he was going to do to make it up to him.
"I meant, why are you using time travel so irresponsibly?"
"We had to. The world was in danger," he said, folding his arms, "I hate time travel. I'd be happiest if I never went into another time or alternate dimension again, but it just keeps on happening to me. Anyway, I was just about to put him back in his own time. I still will, I promise!"
"And if you do that, he'll find some more Chaos Emeralds in his own time and do exactly the same thing again, to his own time!" the third hedgehog gave an exasperated sigh, "You can't just go on as if nothing had ever happened. You've affected your past. Your past has been changed, and that's affected your future. How many times have you done this now and why haven't you learned your lesson yet?"
"I'm not going back anyway," said Classic Sonic, "I'm not going to just live out a doomed timeline like a good little sheep... hey!" he suddenly snapped his fingers, "I know who you are!"
"You do?" said Modern Sonic, pleased to see him looking slightly less depressed.
"You remember that green light thingy, right? All the talk about the time travelling we were doing before... he's the Sonic that went to the Miracle Planet!"
"I thought that was you!"
"Yes, he's right, and no, I'm a different hedgehog," he sighed, "And I really shouldn't be lecturing you on the virtues of responsible time travel. You're not the one who got yourself trapped on the Miracle Planet in an infinite time loop."
"But you're standing right here in front of us!" Modern Sonic scratched his head.
"The Miracle Planet wanders, remember? When it passes close enough to another world, the influence of its time loop can just about affect what happens there. That's how it ended up being chained to Moebius," he explained, "You're amazingly lucky. Well, it might not be luck. I'm working on a theory that the planet's alive, or at least something very powerful on the planet is deciding where it ends up."
"So, how long have you been trapped on that planet?" he replied, "Are you not allowed to leave, or is it just that you can't? Are we gonna end up like this? What if the planet moves with you still on our world?"
"He can't answer that many questions all at once!" snapped Knuckles. He had scooped the Emeralds into a pile in his hands instead of returning them all to their correct positions to be used by Tails as a power source. He was worried about the ever growing number of hedgehogs playing around with them again, and if they were all going to be standing around talking, Tails didn't need them for his machines either.
"I won't be allowed to stay here when the planet leaves," said the third Sonic, "And I don't know exactly when that will be. I'm not going to leave until I know for sure that whatever damage you two have done to the world isn't going to come back the moment I leave. The best way I can see to resolve all of this, is for you to come back with me."
"And be trapped on the Miracle Planet forever?" yelped Modern Sonic, "I mean, it's nice and all, the fish are pretty, but what about all my friends and the worlds I need to save?"
"I can't slink off into permanent exile, I've got a war to turn the tide of!" agreed Classic Sonic.
"You won't be trapped. You're not travelling in time, just a quick space flight. I'm not letting either of you near the Time Stones until you learn the basics of responsible time travel, and even then, you're not going to expose yourself to the raw power of all the Stones in the same place with absolutely no shielding, like I did," he replied, glaring at Classic Sonic, "Besides, there aren't any Chaos Emeralds on the Miracle Planet. There's something seriously up with you."
"Oh, he'll recover, he's just real angry at what he found out, and at me for not telling him earlier," explained Modern Sonic.
"I mean, apart from his brain. We've always been nuts. Something really wrong."
It's not resolved yet, he mentally told himself, The visions aren't changing. The bad future isn't going away.
"Take your time to think about it, and talk it over with all your friends," ordered the third Sonic, "I'm sure Knuckles can stop any of us getting our hands on the Emeralds for just the one day."
"It is kind of supposed to be my job," he snarled, before shoving Modern Sonic away from the door and storming out, Emeralds tucked under his arm. The third Sonic followed the sullen Echidna, his thoughts almost as dark.
Maybe this one isn't going to end well, whatever happens. They don't always. Sometimes I feel grateful I'm allowed to just stay on the Miracle Planet.