A few minutes earlier…
"No…that's impossible! I…I watched you…" Professor Gerald stammers with surprise at the sight of the hedgehog who was once called Sunlight. Maria hides behind her grandfather, staring around him with curiosity at Blacklight. "You're supposed to be…"
Blacklight waves to silence him. "Oh, no, enough about me." Gerald takes a more defensive stance at the movement. "Calm down, calm down. I have no reason to hurt you. Yet. I just want to learn a little more about your son, you can do that for me, can't you?"
"What? No, Shadow! He…wait, you're Mustache's dad?" He starts to laugh hysterically. "Oh, that's rich!"
Maria suddenly outbursts, "You know my father?"
"Shut up, Barbie. No one was talking to you."
Gerald is clearly enraged by the insult, but agrees with the sentiment. He pushes her a step back. "Why are you here? What do you want from us?"
"I believe I was getting to that part. You created Shadow. And I want to know everything about him that you do. How does he think? What does he do?" He starts to tap a finger on one side of his forehead. "What makes him tick?"
"Well…I created Shadow to–"
"Yes, yes, I know all of that already. Tell me something I don't know. Like…what makes him so different from myself?"
Gerald seems immediately concerned by the question. He momentarily glances back to Maria. "I will tell you everything…if you allow Maria to leave safely."
"Excuse me? I don't believe that you're in the position to be making deals here, my dear Professor. The girl stays right here, and I don't destroy you both. How's that for a deal?"
Gerald sighs. "Maria…you may not like what you are about to hear. But I swear it is entirely the truth."
"Get on with it, then!"
"The difference between you and Shadow…is an extra infusion of DNA."
"Infusion? You mean to say that Shadow is not an artificial life form?"
"Not entirely, no. I might have been able to keep an entirely artificial life form alive using a life-support system larger than he is. But that isn't what I wanted. It would have made his life a misery. If I had known that you could live without either, I would never have–"
"This DNA…where did it come from?"
Gerald hangs his head. "Not from anything of this world. It came from the leader of an extraterrestrial hivemind species by the name of Black Doom."
It is at this moment that Shadow barges through the door, drenched from his fight against the Artificial Chaos.
Sonic the Hedgehog: The Chaos Project
Season 0, Episode 18
Birth of Blacklight, Part 5: Project: Shadow
Written by ChaosProject
Concept by ChaosProject
"Do tell me more about this…Black Doom fellow."
Shadow freezes at the sound of the name. He looks straight to Maria, who looks back to him with some mixture of relief, confusion, and fear. Gerald nods slowly at seeing this exchange, perhaps confirming a theory.
Blacklight continues, "Well, someone say something. This silence is killing me."
Shadow, still dripping wet, answers slowly, "Black Doom means nothing."
"Nothing, hm? Well if that's the case, then I suppose the two of us are exactly the same, no? So why do you continue fighting me?"
"Because you continue to force me to. Do you think this is what I want? Of course not! I wanted to help you! But time and time again you've proven to me that you don't deserve my help!"
"Oh, you want to help me with your rules. I could never rest living under so many of them! Every moment, wondering which should be followed, and which should be broken! Better to break them all, and never give the other way a second thought! Have you ever stopped to consider that your little DNA infusion might have had the opposite effect as expected? That, rather than leading you to Darkness, it led you to Balance and peace? Well I have no peace! My very being is a war, a paradox, constantly fighting against itself! That's what makes us different!"
"You think that I'm at peace? There's never been a peaceful moment in my life since the day I was woken up by the Doctor! No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, life always denies me the peace I've worked for! There's always a new problem, a new dilemma to make me question my own life! And now, you've made me question the one thing that's given me hope through it all! And you wonder why–"
"Did you say 'the Doctor'?" He pulls out the purple Emerald and points at it. "This Doctor?" Before Shadow can answer, Blacklight starts to mutter, "The Doctor…" He points his finger from the Emerald to Gerald. "…and the Professor…" He moves his hand to his chin as he continues to think. "…and the Lieutenant. Well!" he suddenly exclaims, "it seems that we're in the middle of the entire Mustache family!" He looks over to Maria. "And you seem to be as well. Perhaps you aren't so useless as I thought."
"You stay away from–"
"I'm sorry, but that dripping is really starting to bother me." Just as he says, Shadow is still slowly dripping wet. Though, the sound has hardly been audible with all of the shouting.
Shadow is caught off-guard by the strange outburst. "Uh–"
"No, please, allow me to dry you off." He suddenly pulls out the cyan Emerald and shouts, "Chaos Tempest!" He throws forward an upraised hand, and a massive gust of wind instantly begins to blow from behind him. The wind mildly ruffles his spikes, but blows into Shadow so hard that he is thrown into the wall behind him.
In the confusion, Blacklight snaps his fingers, and warps to a spot behind Gerald and Maria. They only have a moment to react before he seizes her with one arm, and snaps them back to his original position.
Disoriented, Shadow gets back up to see Blacklight holding Maria captive, covering her mouth with one hand to muffle her screams, and openly displaying the red Emerald in the other. The look on Shadow's face quickly moves from one of utter fear, to one of uncontrollable anger. He moves as if to attack, but Blacklight stops him immediately.
"Nah, ah, ah. One wrong move, and Barbie's perfect hair gets burned off of her scalp."
Shadow hangs his head in defeat. "Alright. I'll do whatever you say. Just tell me what you want."
"My demands are simple. One portal." He waves around the Emerald to convey his meaning. "And one 60 second head-start."
"So that's it? You're doing this just to keep up your game?"
Blacklight shrugs. "Maybe. I could just end up waiting for you on the other side. Haven't really decided yet." Maria looks at Shadow desperately while he speaks. "So, are my terms agreeable?"
Silently, Shadow gives a slow nod, and takes out the yellow Emerald.
"Very good, very good." He holds his own Emerald forward. "Let's get started, shall we? Chaos…"
Shadow walks just close enough to put the two Emeralds in close proximity to each other. He mutters almost silently, "Chaos…"
They both finish in entirely different inflections, "Control." As usual, a space-time rift forms between them.
Blacklight points back to Shadow one last time. "Remember, I'd better not see you out there for 60 seconds. Perhaps a stopwatch would be helpful? Not that I have one." A lack of response from Shadow seems to irritate him slightly. "Fine, fine, I'll go." He gives a little wave. "Toodle-oo." He gets a firm grip on Maria, and pulls them both into the rift.
Shadow has to tightly clench his fists and teeth to keep himself from following. Prof. Gerald, silent all of this time, finally speaks, "You aren't my Shadow, are you?"
"…I used to be."
"You came here through one of those things?"
Shadow nods slowly.
"Who does that make him?"
"Not your problem."
Gerald goes silent for several long seconds. "The things that you said…about your suffering…they were all true?"
Shadow nods again.
"…Dare I ask…what happens?"
Shadow gives a heavy sigh. "…I'm going to get Maria back. That's all you have to worry about." Changing the subject, he adds, "Oh, and Artificial Chaos. They've broken loose, and they're on a rampage. Make sure that your Shadow takes care of it. You may want to call in the military as well."
Gerald understands, but doesn't allow the change in subject. "It's Maria, isn't it? You will fail to save her. You will blame yourself, and you believe that you will never find peace because of it." He finishes more with statements than with questions.
Shadow, still looking away from his creator, takes several moments to respond. But suddenly, he turns to face him, his eyes seeming to well up with emotion. "It was Maria who saved me! I promised you that I would protect her with my life, but she didn't care! She had me make her a promise instead. And now, I can't keep that either…" He takes a slight pause as he turns away again. "I'm a failure. I don't deserve to exist any more than he does."
"Shadow…" He places his hand on his creation's shoulder. Shadow looks back at him to sees that he holds the blue Emerald in his opposite hand. "I don't believe that I've ever told you this before…but I'm proud of you."
"Never could I have imagined that you would become so completely…human. To feel regret. Fear. Love. These are the things I feared you would never come to comprehend. These are the things I feared Black Doom may have taken away from you. But now I see that you may be even more human than I am. I could never have asked for a better friend for my granddaughter. Now take this Emerald," He places it in his hand. "…and save Maria. For both of us." He thinks for another moment. "And remember. He hasn't seen your true power yet."
Shadow looks to the rings around his wrists in understanding. Then he looks back to Gerald, and gives a resolute nod. "Thank you…for everything." He leaps into the rift.
March 21st, 42 B.E.
Research Facility EDEN
Shadow comes out of the rift and immediately looks around. Blacklight and Maria are nowhere to be seen. Though the sky is still dark, the stars in the sky are beginning to disappear, marking the coming dawn.
"Impossible as it is, I knew that I would find you here eventually." Shadow turns suddenly to see Lt. Alfred Robotnik glaring at him through the hole in the wall that Blacklight had created. He steps out of the hole to draw nearer to Shadow. "I have just one question. Are you from the past? Or the future?"
Shadow starts to walk away. "I'm sorry, but I don't have time–"
"I will not have you ignore me, you traitorous wretch!"
He keeps walking. "If you want to find a traitor, you should help me look for your creation."
"Liar!" Impressively for his age and stature, he dives at Shadow. Shadow steps to the side, and Alfred crashes to the ground. He quickly gets back up. "I don't care what you do to me. Whatever harm you inflict, Sunlight shall return to you tenfold!"
"He has Maria. He's holding her hostage. And if you don't let me go, he'll probably kill her."
"What kind of fool do you take me for!? Maria has been dead for 10 years! You killed her!" Shadow doesn't say anything, but merely looks the Lieutenant in the eyes. After a moment, he mutters with irritation, "Time travel." After another moment, he continues, "Do you really expect me to believe you? Sunlight would never do such a thing. You, on the other hand…"
"Okay, so maybe I am lying. I'm sure you've already heard about what happened in town yesterday. Your creation assaulted a man over an apple."
"He doesn't understand social interaction yet! And, as I was told, you kidnapped him immediately afterwards!"
"That was no kidnapping. If I hadn't saved him then, the military would've torn him apart. Or he would've torn them apart, and declared himself conqueror of the world. Your words, not mine."
After a moment of confusion, Alfred again mutters, "Time travel."
Shadow continues, "So, you can assume that it's all a lie. But are you willing to take that risk? You don't have to help me. You don't have to believe me. Just let me go." Without another word, Shadow starts to leave again. But he stops. "Oh, and by the way. He doesn't go by the name 'Sunlight' anymore. He prefers the name 'Blacklight'." He continues on his way. And this time, Alfred does nothing to stop him.
Blacklight reclines back on a rock in a familiar hilltop clearing by the town. "So, how's your day been going?"
Maria sits at the base of the rock, her head buried between her knees. She says nothing.
"What, it's a simple question." She remains silent. "Okay, I guess I'll start. In the past 24 hours, I've discovered my freedom, met the brother I never knew I had, and defeated him in battle…a few times. A pretty good day, I would say. How about you?"
She finally speaks, never looking at him. "Who are you?"
"Oh! My bad, my bad, I thought that had been covered already. I am Blacklight. That should tell you everything you need to know."
"That doesn't tell me anything."
"Nonsense! Of course it does. After all, when I call you Barbie, it tells me everything I need to know about you."
"That's not my name."
"Oh, it isn't? Well, I suppose I just assumed. So? Since you seem to care so much, what is your name?"
"Maria? Well that doesn't make any sense. I'm…pretty sure you're more of a Barbie. Just saying."
For a while, they both go silent. Then Maria asks, "Why have you taken me here?"
"Why? Do I have to have a reason? Isn't this just such a nice place? Wouldn't you like to watch the sunrise here with me?" Maria does look around, but doesn't say anything. "Okay, you got me. We're waiting here for Shadow to show up. I must say, I was expecting him sooner."
"If you just want to see Shadow, why did you come here?"
"I say again. Nice place. Sunrise. Pefect. Is it so wrong for me to want to choose the place of our final true confrontation? Besides, I needed to make sure that he got the last Emerald first."
"…Why do you hate Shadow?"
"Hate him? Not at all! In fact, this past day with Shadow has been the most fun I've ever had in my entire life. We are truly two of a kind. And that's exactly the problem. So long as the both of us remain on an equal level, one will never cease in their pursuit to convert the other. Of course I want him to be like me. Of course he wants me to be like him. Each of us thinks ourselves right, and the other wrong. And neither of us will allow the other to be so wrong, with so much power."
"And you'll destroy him before you let him be wrong?"
"No. I'll destroy him before I let him stop me from being right. Of course, that may not be necessary. Shadow is learning more about the truth of this world with every passing hour."
Shadow's voice shouts, "Blacklight!"
"Ah, speak of the Shadow, and the Shadow doth appear." Shadow steps up onto the grassy side of the hill. Blacklight hops off of his rock, and takes a few steps across the rocky, lifeless side. "As you can see, I have upheld my end of the bargain. Your princess is safe, and most certainly not in another castle. Not that there was any doubt."
Shadow looks to Maria, who still crouches in front of the rock. "Are you alright? Did he hurt you?"
Blacklight continues, "Good. Now that that's settled, it's time to set something straight. I understand how you might be under a sort of…conflict of interest, right now. So I'm going to offer you a choice. Choose correctly, and yon fair maiden shall be returned to thee. Choose incorrectly…and there still may be some hope for you."
"What are you babbling about?"
"It's quite simple. You've had your time to think. Now choose. The humans? Or me?"
Maria suddenly cries out, "Shadow, what is he talking about? What's going on?"
Shadow sighs. "That's hardly a fair choice. …I'd be betrayed either way."
Maria gasps. "Shadow, what are you saying!?"
Blacklight feigns surprise. "Me? Betray you? Okay, well, maybe. But only because you're being so disagreeable. Now, business. Make the choice." He starts tapping his foot. "I'm waiting."
"Let's get one thing straight, Blacklight. I'd rather be completely alone than following you."
Blacklight sharply intakes breath as the muscles around his face and neck twitch slightly. "Oof. Tsk, tsk, tsk, Shadow. Wrong choice. Luckily for you, I'm feeling very agreeable today. Unlike yourself. So, I'll be almost as happy with a barter. Give me your Chaos Emeralds, and the girl is yours."
"So you can use all seven to destroy us both? Not a chance."
"Alright, you got me. One Emerald, then." He thinks for a moment, then throws up a hand. "Wait! One Emerald…and an apple."
Shadow puts a hand up to his face, and growls in irritation. "I don't have any apples. I'll give you the Emerald."
"Don't worry, don't worry, we can work this out. I'll approve you for a loan! You'll owe me one apple…with twenty percent annual interest, of course. I'd write you a contract, but I'm afraid that I don't have any paper on me. We'll have to consider this part of the deal itself as binding. Do you, Shadow the Hedgehog, hereby confirm that you have heard and agree to these conditions?"
"Fine, fine." He takes out the blue Emerald. "I'm going to put this on the ground, here." He does so. "You are going to walk towards it slowly, while I walk to Maria. Alright?"
"Come on, Shadow, you can trust me! When have you ever known me to break my word?"
"Several times, actually."
Blacklight thinks on that for a moment. "Okay, okay, I'll do the walking thing. Are you quite ready?"
Shadow nods, and slowly takes the first step. Blacklight does the same from the opposite side. They near the border between the rocky and grassy sides of the hill. The very first rays of the rising sun shine directly on the two at the exact moment that they lock eyes at the very center of the hill. Then they continue past each other. Unable to resist, Shadow starts to run the last few steps to Maria. But she flinches away from him. Closer inspection reveals her face to be streaming with tears. "Maria!? What's wrong?"
She cries, "I don't even know you anymore! He said that you're starting to think more like him. And then you said that humanity would betray you!?"
"You've been avoiding me and ignoring me for all of this time! I couldn't understand why, but now…"
"Do you…do you hate me?" She looks up to him with fear and sorrow.
"Hate you? No, of course not! Maria, I…" Unsure of what to say, he reaches out a hand to comfort her. But she flinches away again.
Blacklight declares, "And so it begins. The one human you thought would stay on your side for an eternity…turned against you by something so trivial. They are afraid of us, Shadow. Every single one. They're afraid of what we'll do when we aren't on their side. But…isn't it sad?"
Shadow looks over to Blacklight. He points not at Maria, but at the blue Emerald he's picked up. It seems that he's moved on to a completely different topic.
"I mean, just look at it. It's so…blue. It almost makes you want to cry, doesn't it?" He sniffles.
Shadow slowly stands to face his opponent directly. "Alright, Blacklight. If you–"
"Ooh, you made a rhyme! 'Alright, Blacklight!' Good one! Here, let me try." He clears his throat. "If you'd like to fight, it would be my delight! See? Now, we're having fun. You know, we–"
"Argh!" Fed up for the last time, Shadow charges viciously at Blacklight.
Blacklight smirks. "Chaos Torrent!" He swiftly drags down a clawed hand, and a massive cascade of high-pressure water falls from nowhere onto Shadow, arresting his movement. When the water clears, Shadow appears more enraged than ever. "Great. Now you're all wet again, and neither of us are happy. I–"
Blacklight barely dives out of the way of the attack. "You know, you're being very rude right now."
"Chaos Control!" Shadow appears behind Blacklight and strikes him in the back of the head, knocking him away.
Blacklight gets back up quickly, rubbing his head. "Alright, I'll admit. That hurt. Inside and out. I think I'll return by…drying you off again!" He switches to the cyan Emerald. "Chaos Tempest!" He unleashes his powerful wind attack.
Prepared this time, Shadow ducks down to the ground, and the wind blows harmlessly over him, though he is dried. As soon as the wind dies down, he leaps at Blacklight again.
Blacklight easily steps out of the way. Shadow tries to throw several more punches, each one skillfully dodged. "What's the matter, Shadow? Getting tired?" Shadow says nothing, and continues the onslaught. "Oh, enough of this. Chaos Terra!" He throws up a rock wall between the two of them, and the sound of Shadow's fist hitting it directly can be heard, as well as a grunt of pain.
Blacklight giggles a bit. He starts to walk around to one side of the wall. The moment Shadow sees him, he charges. "Chaos Terra!" A second wall rises. Another movement of his hand, and the sound of more rising rock can be heard. A third movement, and the walls all collapse around Shadow, completely sealing him in.
Inside of the rocky prison, Shadow closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath. Gerald's words echo, "He hasn't seen your true power yet."
Blacklight shouts from outside, "Everything alright in there, Shadow? Air getting a little thin? I know that you could get out of there quite easily. Are you hiding from me?"
There is a high-pitched, echoing snap, and a bright flash of light as Shadow unclasps an Inhibitor Ring from one wrist, then the other. They both clatter to the floor.
Outside, Blacklight starts to knock on the rocky dome as one would on a door. "Helloooo? Anybody home?" Suddenly, the entire rock formation explodes outwards, forcing Blacklight to shield his face from the debris.
Shadow stands with his arms outstretched, as if he had destroyed the rock with the force of his hands alone. He glows with a faint yellow energy.
Blacklight looks on with interest. "Is that an upgrade I see? This should be fun. Chaos Inferno!" He unleashes another stream of flame.
Shadow charges straight into the fire, as the energy around him dispels and protects him from the flames. He hits Blacklight at full speed, launching him backwards.
Blacklight gets back up with a growl. He wastes no more words. "Chaos Terra!" He draws another rock wall from the ground, and hurls it at Shadow.
"Chaos Spear!" Shadow's attack obliterates the chunk of earth and keeps going, striking Blacklight once more.
Blacklight wipes himself off, the battle clearly not going in his favor. Then an idea strikes him. "Alright, Shadow. No more holding back." He pulls out the purple Emerald. "Chaos…" Shadow readies himself for the attack. But Blacklight suddenly turns to the side, facing Maria. "…Void!" With one hand, he unleashes a massive orb of shadowy energy directed straight at her.
Shadow shouts in fear, "Maria!" Acting on instinct alone, he sprints towards her as fast as his legs will possibly move. But they aren't fast enough to get her out of the way. Instead, he dives into the path of the attack. He pulls out the yellow Chaos Emerald, and holds it in front of him. "Chaos…Shine!" From the Emerald itself, a beam of blinding white light is unleashed, which impacts the orb of darkness, and momentarily stalls it in the air. Then the orb overpowers the beam, and strikes Shadow directly in the chest.
Maria cries out, "Shadow!" She runs over to the spot where he sprawls out onto the ground.
Shadow opens his eyes to see Maria standing over him. For a moment, he smiles. Then he starts to get up with a slight struggle, waving for Maria to get behind him.
Blacklight appears quite irritated. "Playing copycat now, are you? How did you do that?"
Shadow kneels down, and reaches for one ankle. "It's just like you said, Blacklight." He removes the third Inhibitor Ring. "No more holding back. No more inhibition." He moves for the other ankle. "I suppose you should consider yourself lucky. You're about to see something in a way that no one ever has before." The final ring drops. "My full power." His yellow glow blazes into a radiant aura.
"Is that supposed to scare me? Really, you must try harder than that."
Shadow shrugs. "Suit yourself." In an instant, Shadow appears behind Blacklight, giving him just enough time to notice before striking.
Blacklight manages to land in a crouch, and counters with "Chaos Inferno!"
"Chaos Shine!" Shadow blocks the stream of fire with the orb of light he forms between his hands. The orb begins to expand as it absorbs the energy of the flames, until Shadow unleashes an even more intense beam of light. Blacklight tries to dive out of the way, but the beam is much too large, and he gets blasted by the attack.
Bruised and winded, Blacklight still manages to stand. "I'm not finished yet! Chaos Torrent!"
Shadow switches out his own Emerald. "Chaos Frost!" With a movement of his hand, he freezes the entire torrent of water above him into a solid pillar of ice. Then he crushes the ice into a thousand tiny shards, and flings them all at Blacklight.
Blacklight starts to fumble with several Emeralds at once, trying to figure out how to counter. At the last moment, he gets a hold of the green Emerald. He gets off a quick "Chaos Terra!" The wall of rock rises to shield him just in time.
While the shards of ice continue to shatter against the rock, Shadow continues with a "Chaos Spear!" The attack sticks into the wall, but Blacklight remains safe on the other side. Then the spear of energy explodes within the wall, blasting Blacklight further back, and showering him with small stones. Even Shadow seems surprised at his own power. But he quickly continues the onslaught. "Chaos Shine!"
"Chaos Void!" Blacklight counters Shadow's beam of light with his own beam of dark energy. The two beams collide, forming a growing orb of swirling light and dark energy. Suddenly, the orb bursts, creating a shockwave that knocks Blacklight back into the same rock he had once relaxed upon. The shockwave hardly affects Shadow, who walks over to the rock.
Blacklight struggles to get up, but collapses back to the ground again. Shadow looks down on him with contempt. Blacklight looks back up with some mixture of fear, sorrow, and awe. Shadow pulls out both of his Chaos Emeralds, which orbit closely around each other over one of his hands. Blacklight coughs meekly before asking, "Shadow…do you really…want to hurt me?" His eyes start to well up with tears.
After a moment's pause, Shadow slowly begins to shake his head. "No. No, I won't."
Blacklight looks up with hope. "Is that because…you really do care about me?"
Shadow scoffs. "Don't flatter yourself. I'll tell you why. I learned something recently. Something the likes of you could never understand. I learned that there's always a better way. That everyone, no matter who they are, deserves a chance. A chance to live." He looks back to Maria. "A chance…to be happy." She smiles back at him.
Blacklight gives a much more violent cough. "Even…me?"
Shadow nods, and extends his free hand. "I believe that you can change. Until that happens, you will remain my enemy. But it doesn't have to stay that way. Now, am I going to have to drag you home?"
Hesitantly, Blacklight takes Shadow's hand, and struggles back to his feet. Immediately, he begins a violent fit of coughing. He throws a hand up to indicate for Shadow to wait as he continues to cough into his arm. Then he suddenly turns and strikes Shadow directly in the chest, causing him to drop the Emeralds. Blacklight bends down to pick them up. "You perfect little fool. I was at your mercy, and now you've just let me win." He lifts the two into the air, and unites them with his five others. His feet lift from the ground. His white fur begins to darken as he starts to radiate a shadowy aura.
To be continued…