Disclaimer: See previous chapters.

Note: If you have seen the recent item I put out, you might want to think about it when you read 'Infinite Reign Preview'. Confused about it? Thumbs up to my whacked idea for the next installment… and I'm not talking about this chapter, either. Cheers to my return… I guess.

- Monoui Shadow

Broken Hope

[Interior of base, Core's 5th lab, Hallway]

A blank stare ahead of him was his response to her before Shadow spoke again.

"You're kidding. There's no way she would have, but it's impossible…"

"I'm serious, Shadow. Eggman did something to her, and it was frightening."

The bruises adorning her back, face, arms, and anywhere else were pretty much physical proof of a beating. Someone did beat her, and however the matter, he refused to believe that his own sister tried to bludgeon Amy half to death because of the doctor's malicious attempts to personify his evil. Nice try, but the overwhelming visibility couldn't just keep his guess on saying that Blizzard didn't do it. Well, he could go track him down… but – ah, if he were to catch him now, he'd have to leave right away, however, Shadow just could not leave her here… by herself.

There was no time to argue with his conscience.

"Stay here, you'll be fine. The others are in, except for Miles." No amount of force was put into the tone, but just a normal one… like the one used when he was with his only friend. He had also put something down next to her besides the outfit. Looked like a multi-way walkie-talkie.

Like the quick-strike lightning as it leaves the charged clouds to snare the ground with the force and heat hotter than the sun, Shadow pivoted and leapt away to begin his skating maneuvers, rushing down the hallway where he had last seen the doctor. He would make sure that pathetic idiot would pay for everything, kidnapping Amy, and his sister, making Blizzard … unwittingly, beat her to a pulp. Well, not really a mash… just hurt and bruised.

[Interior of base, Northwestern sector]

Rouge, craftily slipping in and out of different rooms in an obvious search for something, looks about to see if Knuckles was following her. Seems not, in this case. He too had the ability to sense where the Master Emerald was, but the batgirl was niftier with her style of infiltration, and theft. It was the only thing she knew how to do beast when all of her other options in life failed to meet what she wanted to be. That, is something Rouge will never say to anyone. Best kept personally private… but in the meantime, she sprinted from room to room, seeking out a particular sense that seethes her nerves… the pieces were so close to her, she could even feel them beneath the palms of her hands, giving off their intricate signature that talented special sensors could detect.

From the dimming lights of the hallway, a long shadow emerged into the room, stretching as far as it could giving the position and the brilliance of the light source behind, her figure standing in front of the doorway. It's here, whatever caught her attention before… it was most certainly in here, and it seems she was also holding something. An electronic device of some sort, rather, her radio communication device. Her facial expressions didn't perceive to be in a great mood, much more in an annoyed, angry state of mind. Rouge didn't have the time to fool around, but what was she doing here? …

"Alright… stop fooling around."

A noise. More noise following after that, footsteps across the floor indicated an anomalistic reaction… that someone was, indeed, here in this very area.

"Vat took you zo long?"

"Just shut up. I don't have the time to play games with you. You've got some explaining to do, and that involves handing over those pieces."

"Vat…? Vell, vat vas I zupposed to do? Not obey the stupid doktor's orderz?"

A surprised male voice suggested, along with his familiar accent, that he had something of importance. A dark male bat happened to be partially exposed in this dimmed light, but… there was no trace of metallic sheen on his left leg, or arm, but kept his fiery pattern on the jeans of his pants, plus boots. Inferno… how is it that he isn't a robot?

"Well, you were, hypothetically, watching the doc's every move and supposedly he's doing something that entails the occurrence aboard the ARK. I'm also here to save a few of my acquaintance's friends."

"I'm sorry if I broke your preciouz Emerald you've been vanting for zo long, but it had to be done in order to prove it to that idiot you needed me to keep an eye on. Eeehhh… ? Friendz? You don't mean the… um…"

"The, what?"

"Erhm… I have somezing to admit."

Rouge, already a bit impatient, tapped her foot. However, she was curious to know why he was acting as if something happened to Blizzard or Amy.

"Go on…" She slowly stated.

"Um… ehm… Vell, you zee, your black and blue hedgehog friend, the female one you know, vight?"

Blizzard.

"Yes."

"…Um…. The doctor did somezing to her. Zhe turned with nasty attitude and beat up your pink-colored other friend. I couldn't do anyzing about it, but watch. I also know the man plans to have somezing to do with the colony in space. He's codenamed a super weapon somezing I couldn't see."

Rouge's eyelids rise to what Inferno was even saying, quite shocked to an extent that it was turning into an emergency situation. She had to inform headquarters, even though she had to lie to the red echidna back on ARK about quitting her work. Blizzard beat up Amy? Eggman must have done something to her, certainly!

"I see. So, looks like it's an official code red circumstance. I'm going to notify HQ and tell them to…"—

Just when things could not get worse, Rouge's shadow was evenly overshadowed by another figure right behind her. Inferno straight away panicked at the sight, eyes widening in total fear. He knew how to deal with theft, and perform it… but not really to fight with guardians… Rouge, almost clueless at her affrighted partner's gaze, noticed that her shadow upon the floor wasn't the same. And the sense that someone was just right behind her. Her spine jumped on end, sending tingling sensations that she may be in danger. Without thinking, Rouge whipped a heel kick straight at her intrusive anomaly with lightning fast reflexes and… hit something that evenly halted her attack.

A hand. Not just any other hand, a spiked-knuckle hand… um…

"I thought so… You were with that bat all along!"

Knuckles yanked her off the floor and threw her with his might straight at the wall across from the door. The collision didn't do much to hurt Rouge, when she bounded right off the wall agilely with her own might behind her. Her right fist turned into a clenched hand, shaking it slightly at the echidna for the recent action. Her teeth were also showing, gleaming and gritting angrily, eyes filled with sudden anger.

"What is WITH you? I was NOT with Inferno… Ooh, if you could only think and listen before acting, then maybe you'd be a little bit more SENSIBLE to know what we were doing! You nosy-ass moron."

"I have to agree vit her, you crazy idiot."

"Give me the pieces of the Master Emerald – all of them, and I won't tear you to pieces, then. Got it?"

"Ooh… I can't stand you! First, you suspect me of stealing your prized emerald, now you think I'm in league with Inferno, and plotting against you and your friends,"

Rouge, fed up with Knuckles' attitude, grabbed the collar of his fur with both of her hands, and brought him close to her with a shoving force, eyes enraged beyond belief. The echidna couldn't react to a woman's way of displaying anger very quickly… in fact…

"Do you know how close I am to kicking you square where the sun doesn't shine? Don't you ever dare accuse me of anything but stealing, and betraying your friends; I would never do that…"

Inferno looked away, tossing the bagged emerald shards to the floor, even if they were still fighting, arguing… whatever they did, it was just boring the German-accented bat. Not until his sensitive ears detected sudden movement from down a ways. As well as Rouge, who didn't move her head towards the sound, but her eyes for a split second-- WHAM!

Knuckles got the fist of his life right in his face, as he went flying in a different direction down the hallway, hitting the solid floor with a skidding sound beneath his red locks. A gash was all that was left behind by the surprise metal punch that landed on the echidna's face. The wound started to seep blood. And neither was Knuckles thrilled about it. Landing his gloved fists on the ground, he pushed himself up and off, to see…

"What the…"

Rouge's look was just the same. But, there was no way…

"Well, well, well. Aren't we surprised? Didn't expect that, didcha?"

"Expect that-- cheap shot to the face? No way… who are you? …Nevermind, it doesn't matter. You're one of Eggman's clunkers. And that only means a challenge to me."

However, Knuckles had thoughts. This red, white-striped echidna had some resemblance, but not by much. It's what most echidnas looked like, but… that was then. How did he survive? Did the doctor have something to do with this? Well, duh. It's the obvious... The other adorning metal arms and legs, the luster they gave off, even with the dimmed light from above.

"So… you wanna fight, Huh?"

Man, I hope he isn't as tough as that mean hedgehog girl back there… I left her so I could search out for these guys, and here I am… ready to take 'em head on!

[Interior of Base, 3rd Hallway, in the vicinity of the Destroyed Lab area]

"Booooooooorrrrrriing. Bitch and whine; that's all he does. He says that I do it, but I have reasons. He doesn't. Isn't that right, Metal? Huh… HEY! Where are you going?! Get back here!"

The robotic hedgehog was just about to depart from the lab, when Blizzard happened to yawn and start her ranting complaints all over again, and gosh if it wasn't for the sixth time during the attack on the base. His decision to leave was but of short notice. Metal more or less began to be bored of her incessant whining, and sought to seek out Sonic or Shadow.

"Unremitting complaints will not be tolerated."

"Whatever you just said… screw you too, buckethead."

[P.O.V.]

Gawd, I can't take this anymore. I have to get out… but… how? There's not much else in here besides wrecked electrified circuitry, that stupid water valve-pipe, and this idiotic robot that doesn't give a damn about anything else besides orders. Of course… that's a circuit-based moron brought to you by Doctor Robotnik. I hate him for what he's done to me.

C'mmmoooooon… someone, help! Anyone!

Aw… what's the use? No one isn't going to hear me from within here. I want to cry. I want to be freed. Where's my brother when you need him?

That shadowed illusionary thing standing there, it's glaring at my constant talk to myself. It knows what I want, but it will not give me what I need…

[Outside of Destroyed Lab]

Metal Sonic perched himself above the rafters from the entrance to the laboratory. If perchance any of the intruders come by, Blizzard would deal with them first… if it were the case of what his master told him to kill her if she is reversed back into good, he will slaughter her mercilessly, and the other intruder. Be it better one of the two hedgehogs…

Footsteps, and at a fast pace, too! His red optics dim down so his presence would be unknown to anyone, including the female hedgehog or the approaching unknown. The figure made a turn down this hallway, and became intent on searching from lab to lab for something. Nothing but a shadowed identity appeared to his sensors. Finally, after a second or two, the unknown figure stops before the lab door. None other than Sonic the Hedgehog himself, his master's primary target for destruction…

Sonic stopped at this particular lab room for a reason. He smells something familiar, like a scent. Female. Two of them were here previously, but… wait… one is still here. It's strong. However… something is terribly wrong here as he takes slow steps into the room. His eyes dart left then right, aware of a presence within the room. Caution being a number one feeling about now, Sonic doesn't like what was in here… something evil. And something indeed happened in here. There were damaged walls, and the floor… lined with cuts, and abrasive damages. Hooked holes, and dented walls. Blood. It was fresh… slightly. Amy was here alright, so was Blizzard… but he can't get the odd feeling he was not alone…

"Gotcha, gotcha. Well look what the wind dragged in. Sonic the Hedgehog."

That voice! Blizzard!

"Blizzard, you're okay. Shadow and everyone else were worried about you and Amy… but… where's Amy? And why are you …hiding?"

"One, I can't say where Amy is… figuring ol' Metal's around the base somewhere… listenin' in. Two,"

Blizzard leapt down from above, outrageously different from before. Sonic knew something was wrong, and there she was. That's what was wrong. Something's happened to her, and… holy cow. Now there's a resemblance he'd never forget; Blizzard looked like a cross between him and Shadow…. Only… female. Blue-eyed, too. But the most shocking thing about her was her look. Like she wanted to kill him, even if he didn't do anything to her.

"Too bad you're not going to live to find out where she is."

"Bliz, c'mon, hey… what's up with you?"

Sonic's idea of fighting a girl wasn't the best idea he had in mind. Nor did he know how to fight one at all. He took one step back, fists forming from his hands. His ears flattened against his skull, as a sign of defense.

"I don't want to hurt you…"

"What's the matter… afraid you'll break something? Wuss…. Wuuuussssssssiiiie! Buck-buck-bkawk!"

Grr…

"But you're giving me no other choice but to do just that."