Disclaimer- I don't own Sonic and co.
Hey…better late than never, right? Enjoy!
Beta'd by 18204!
Chapter 12- Light show
"What in the hell is that?"
Boom's voice was a mere whisper, but the amount of shock present was as clear as day.
After traversing part of the immense pyramid without any hints as to where Mephiles, Shadow, or Eggman could be, Boom's irritation and impatience had been steadily increasing with every step they took. He had been one empty room away from taking his anger out on one of the tagalongs behind him when he turned a corner and froze in place.
He was looking down a dimly lit corridor, which was surrounded on all sides by cracked and crumbling stone. At the far end was a sealed door along with an hourglass sitting pretty right beside it. Boom's attention wasn't on the exit, for his eyes couldn't stray from the ghost floating in the middle of the hallway.
And it was staring back.
Boom did not startle when trembling hands clamped down on his shoulders. He glared hard over his shoulder at Grey, who was hiding behind him, and growled, "Get off me."
"I'd rather get punched by you than get killed by that th-thing," the psychic frantically whispered, eyes blown wide. "It's probably going to eat my s-soul in the most agonizing way possible."
Peeking around the two frozen hedgehogs, Tails let out a relieved breath. He stepped farther into the corridor, giving the 'hogs a reassuring look. "We don't have to worry about this guy. It won't attack us."
Grey wanted to believe him, but those soulless eyes and stitched mouth were very off-putting. "H-How do you know?"
"Because of how it looks!" Tails glanced over to the ghost to see it staring at him now. He would be lying if its presence didn't make him somewhat nervous. "Its dark eyes and closed mouth mean that it's a regular boo, one who's more curious than anything. The boos we have to be careful of have colorful eyes and sharp teeth. Those are the ones that attack."
Grey's fingers tensed as he gulped. "So there are m-more of them? That's just perfect!"
Boom roughly shrugged the psychic off of him, aiming his heated glare at the kit now. He stomped over to Tails, hissing, "And why the hell didn't you mention those things before, huh? Were you waiting for a sneak attack before sharing the damn news?"
"No!" Tails shook his head, holding his hands up innocently. Boom already had been easy to provoke, and their current situation was making him – everyone – more on edge. "I just didn't think there would be any still here! Knuckles had fought their king a while back, and-"
"They have a fucking king?" Boom couldn't believe this. First Eggman, then that stupid illusion, and now irritating ghosts. He clenched his fists. "You better tell me that dreadlocked jackass sent it back wherever the hell it came from."
Tails hesitated, not having a definite answer to that. "Um…there's a slim chance that he might still be here if those are…" he reluctantly admitted, gesturing at the boo slowly floating over to a petrified Grey.
"Okay Mr. Probability, what's the chance of that shitty robot taking Penumbra and Mephiles to see this so-called king?" Boom borderline snarled.
Tails didn't need to respond. If King Boom Boo was still here, then it was likely that one of their friends might be going up against him. Tails hoped with everything he had that it was Sonic's group.
Boom narrowed his eyes before barking out, "We're wasting time." He stepped away from Tails, who could breathe easier, before regarding Grey. "Let's go, psycho."
"I can't!" The white hedgehog was stiff, looking down at the ghost right in front of him. "Are you sure that it won't devour my soul, Tails?"
Boom scowled. "Use your damn powers to toss the thing away before I-"
Tails pointed over his shoulder, and Boom whirled around only to find another ghost charging right at him. He processed the frenzied red and yellow eyes and razor-sharp teeth in time to raise an arm to block, but the boo wasn't deterred in the slightest.
Boom cried out when those teeth sunk into his skin before he managed to punch the enemy away with his other fist. The boo propelled backwards, flipping in the air until it righted itself and charged once more.
The speedster was ready this time, ignoring how streams of blood slithered down his arm. It was for naught; the ghost froze midair and was smashed against the ground repeatedly. After the fourth time, the boo dissipated in a puff of smoke.
Boom cut his eyes over at Grey, huffing. "I didn't need any help!"
The psychic rolled his eyes as he lowered his hand. "What you were supposed to say was 'thank you', jerk." Grey then mentally grabbed the regular boo from before, giving it the same treatment until it faded out of existence.
"At least you're out of your bitch phase," Boom coldly jeered, withholding a flinch when he accidentally grazed the bite mark on his arm.
"Well, I'm more pissed than scared right now, so..." When Grey's attention drifted over to another sharp-toothed ghost emerging from the wall, Boom gave the psychic a pointed look.
"This one's mine," he declared before rushing the enemy, punching it square in the face before it could do any damage. In retrospect, Boom shouldn't have used his injured arm – the impact causing shocks of paint to course up and down it – but it was too late now. The ghost disintegrated, nothing but a memory.
Hearing a grunt behind him, Boom turned to see Tails kicking another crazed boo into the wall, getting rid of another obstacle. At least the kid wasn't dead weight he had to carry around this damn place.
After checking for any more ghosts – they were in the clear for now – Tails focused on Boom's injury. The bite marks looked shallow, but the amount of blood coming from them was a little concerning. If only they had brought a first-aid kit or something…
Boom obviously wasn't fond of his blatant concern. "Worry about yourself. I'm fine."
"That doesn't look fine," Grey pointed out, approaching the speedster. "Let me see-"
"If you come any closer, I'll give you another bruise that matches the one on your face."
"Okay, first, I let you get that slap in scot-free, and second, why are you constantly like this? Can't you be a normal person for a second?"
"That's funny, coming from you."
Grey threw his arms up in exasperation, snapping, "At least I know how to show my emotions! Someone has to be on death's door in order for you to show an ounce of care!"
Boom glowered, but the psychic was getting riled up and was unable to stop himself. "And only then! Because I'd bet everything that when this is over, you'll stop giving a damn like you always do!"
Boom bared his teeth, quills bristling. "Say one more fucking word, and I'll-"
"And you'll do what? No one is scared of you anymore!"
Tails had to stop this before the argument escalated into something physical. "Hey, guys?" Two angered gazes landed on him, and he looked around before suggesting, "I think we should keep moving so the boos won't catch us by surprise again…"
The hedgehogs went back to staring each other down, tension crackling. Just when Tails thought punches would be thrown anyway, Boom clicked his tongue in irritation. Without saying anything, he scowled and ran for the door at the end of the hall.
Tails whirled up his namesakes to follow, looking at the vexed psychic beside him. "Just…" he started quietly. "Try to not antagonize him too much while we're in here."
Grey stuttered in the air, affronted. "Me… antagonize him?!"
"I know, I know, but-" Tails ducked under the lowering door, watching Boom sprint down a rugged path in front of them. "This is already a stressful situation and we really shouldn't try to make it worse."
"Shouldn't you be telling him that?"
"Do you really think he'd listen to me?"
Grey's argument ended there. "Touché." He sighed, frown deepening. "Fine, I'll try, but no promises though."
Tails smiled. It was something, at least.
Mephiles felt like he couldn't breathe.
A violent chill ran down his back once he focused on the multi-colored eyes in the distance, them somehow piercing through the shifting haze in the room. They were colored like rainbows, but there was nothing joyous about them. All Mephy felt was fear.
This couldn't be a robot. Those eyes felt too alive, and Mephiles had never felt this way fighting a mech. Even against Metal, he hadn't felt so… so…
He was startled out of his thoughts when another eerie laugh bounced off the walls, causing his quills to bristle. Penumbra was as tense as he was, ears alert and gaze unwavering.
Mephy sucked in a harsh breath when the eyes drifted closer, and any space between Mephiles and Penumbra was completely gone at this point. He knew that he shouldn't be this scared. It was just that he'd come back from the dead today and he had no idea what they were trapped in this room with and was… was that a ghost?
The eyes were close enough now that he could see what they were attached to. A white body emerged from the haze along with two hands equipped with claws. It had no legs. The being resembled any generic ghost shown on TV, but the sinister grin showing off rows of razor-sharp teeth proved that it was anything but.
Penumbra was growling now and crouched low to the ground, ready to pounce. The ghost only grinned wider, looking down at them as it steadily yet silently approached.
Mephiles didn't want to know what it would do once it reached them.
He grabbed Penumbra's arm with shaky fingers and tugged in the opposite direction of the incoming horror. They needed to find a way out of here now.
Nummy didn't respond to him at first, and it was only when his tugging grew more persistent that Penumbra finally glanced at him. Mephiles' expression must've said exactly what he thought of this situation. He shook his head. "No, we have to fight." There was an attempt of a smile. "Done before."
Mephy stood there for a moment, dumbfounded, because they had never taken on anything like this. He wished that someone else had been there as well to tell him that, but as it was…
Another laugh snapped Mephiles' attention back forward, and his throat constricted at the sight of the empty space where the ghost should have been.
Eyes blown wide, Mephy scanned as much of the room as he could for the ghost, and Nummy's ears rotated around, listening intensely. There was an overbearing silence now. It was too quiet; Mephiles' pulse was pounding in his ears.
The smothering hush was shattered when Penumbra abruptly yelled, "Move!" However, it was too late for the both of them.
Mephiles' mouth fell open in a silent yell when an unforgivable force slammed into him, his body careening through the air like a ragdoll. Pain blossomed from his right side, nearly the same place where Bat had blasted him with air.
He barely had enough time to recover from the hit before having to melt into the quickly approaching ground. That was one benefit of this room being nearly shrouded in darkness; or rather, the only benefit.
Mephiles halfway emerged from the stone, struggling to control his breathing as he futilely searched through the haze for Penumbra. It was too thick. He stopped relying on his vision and perked his ears, desperately waiting for any hint as to Nummy's location.
"Mephiles!" Mephy snapped his head to the right, relief mixing with the fear and panic. Penumbra's voice wasn't too far away. "Where are-" Mephiles gasped when the other's words were replaced with an abrupt yelp followed by threatening growls.
Heartrate skyrocketing, he slid across the ground as quickly as he could because he didn't know what was happening, and he just... hadn't been ready for this.
Why did he think that things would go off without a hitch? Why did he think that just because he had played the part of a fearless hero once that he was ready for anything life threw at him? Now Penumbra was probably hurt, and he had no idea how to help-
All thoughts came to a screeching halt when he saw a ball of blue fire flying right at him.
Mephiles pumped the brakes and backpedaled to avoid the crackling flames. Glowing sparks spread out from the impact; Mephy winced when some stuck to his cheek, hastily wiping away the searing particles.
The blue blaze was an arm's length away, the intense heat coating Mephy's front and mentally shoving him back to when he was engulfed in it. Fur, muscles, and skin were stripped away in a fraction of a second; his body burned.
Mephiles clenched his chest with a trembling hand, his breathing erratic as he experienced his death over and over again. The explosion, the flames, and scorching heat…
Coming here was a mistake.
Mephy's breath was nearly knocked out of him when a body collided with his. He hissed in pain when he crashed to the ground, too out-of-it to melt. Mephiles blinked out of his trance, panting, to see another fireball searing the spot he had been standing in.
"Are you okay?"
Mephy snapped his attention to the striped hedgehog crouching over him, able to see the worry because of the blue light casting a glow on everything nearby. Mephiles didn't automatically answer Penumbra. He exhaled deeply to regain some control over his body. His trembling waned, and his heart stopped hammering against his chest.
He wasn't in the lab. He was alive and fighting to keep it that way.
When Nummy peered closer at him, frown deepening, Mephiles finally nodded. He peeled himself off the ground with a silent groan, and he stiffened when a snarl pierced the dead air.
Penumbra was glaring above the flames as the giant ghost faded into view. The blue light flickering in those rainbow eyes and glinting off the numerous sharp teeth made the ghost all the more sinister.
Nummy cautiously shifted onto all fours as two more ghosts appeared at the big one's side. They weren't as massive, but the crazed looks and wicked smiles they sported made up for it.
"Get in shadow," Penumbra lowly commanded. Mephiles didn't think twice about doing so, completely submerging into his friend's shade. He wouldn't have to worry about any more unexpected hits like this, but the fire would still be a problem.
Nummy adjusted, getting ready to read the ghosts' next move, and the light caught one of his legs in a way that Mephiles could see a set of bite marks leaking blood. Before concern truly sunk in, the big ghost faded away over the waning fires while the smaller two charged forward.
Penumbra pounced immediately. He leapt through the air and met one of the ghosts halfway, wildly slashing its face. It was launched backwards with a garbled cry. Nummy didn't let it get far; he curled into a ball upon landing and shot completely through the ghost, it dissipating in a hazy puff.
Mephiles inwardly cheered as Penumbra slid to a stop, claws scraping against rough stone. Nummy didn't pause to celebrate. Instead, he quickly switched targets to the second ghost, which was near invisible to Mephy as the fires put themselves out.
At least Penumbra was perfect for this kind of fight. Anyone else would've had a rough time attacking in the dark.
Nummy sprinted forward and jumped high again, ready to devastate, but he didn't get a chance to. Mephiles watched in horror as the massive ghost reappeared in front of Penumbra with its mouth agape. Nummy had been going too fast to yank his outstretched arm away from the shearing teeth.
The resulting agonized scream churned Mephiles' insides.
He helplessly watched as Penumbra dangled from the smiling mouth, blood streaming down his right arm. Whimpering cries filled the room as he wriggled around in an attempt to escape.
The ghostly grin grew, and Nummy was effortlessly flung in a random direction.
Mephy halfway emerged from the ground and held out his arms right as Penumbra collided with him. He gasped at the impact, and they roughly rolled over each other before coming to a stop.
Darkness had smothered them again, and Mephy breathlessly groaned as he sat up. He didn't regret cushioning the fall because that was the only thing he could do in this terrible situation.
Hearing shifting beside him, Mephiles squinted and was barely able to see Penumbra holding his arm close to his body. He couldn't see his expression, but the soft whines painted a very clear picture.
Mephy reached out to comfort, to reassure, to do something, but his wrist was tightly grabbed. He was suddenly tossed to the side. Soundlessly yelping, Mephiles rolled a couple times on the stone and snapped his head up to feel the heat of chaotic blue flames. Penumbra had saved him again.
Said hedgehog was slowly backing away from the pyre, giving Mephiles a quick glance. His eyes were glossier than normal. "I-In shadow," he said again. Mephiles complied, cringing at the other's mangled arm. Skin was severely shredded, revealing torn and bloody muscle.
He couldn't examine the wound for long; another fireball was launched their way. Penumbra took off in the other direction, his speed taking a massive hit from his injury.
Nummy sidestepped more flames deposited in his path only to almost be hit with a second fiery bomb. With a sharp growl, he turned to the right to avoid the heat.
The temperature rose as more and more fireballs rained down on them, crackling dangerously. Penumbra weaved back and forth as much as he could, singeing quills along the way.
Mephiles didn't know where they were going or how big this room was, but he didn't care as long as they got away from the monster haunting them in one piece.
He was confident that Nummy shared the same thoughts, so he was thrown for a loop when Penumbra skidded to a stop without any warning.
Nummy stared into the haze and hissed, "Corner." Mephiles took that as 'dead-end', and they needed to get away from this place right now.
As soon as Penumbra turned, the smaller ghost came out of nowhere and rammed him in the head, snapping it to the side. He stumbled, but he regained his balance in time to hop backwards away from a rocketed fireball.
He attempted to go around the heat, but a second one stopped him in his tracks… then a third, a forth, and a fifth. They kept coming, getting ever so closer and pushing a frightened Penumbra back.
Mephiles stared in disbelief, shock, and terror at the wall of raging fire before them, blocking any means of escape. Then, when he thought that things couldn't get any worse, dozens of the smaller ghosts floated through the flames with sadistic grins.
Penumbra snarled, but it was weaker as he quickened his steps backwards. He gasped when his back hit a wall.
The familiar crazed laugh boomed, and Mephiles swallowed thickly when the massive ghost appeared amidst the smaller ones. It smiled broadly as it floated closer.
Despite the fear running through his veins, Mephiles fully emerged from the ground to put himself between the ghost and Penumbra.
"N-No!" Nummy's voice was less demanding now, pleading, "Get back in shadow! Don't want you hurt!"
Mephy shook his head because it was his turn to do something. He couldn't stand to see Penumbra injured, and… maybe they could get out of this.
After taking a deep breath that did nothing to steady his nerves, Mephiles looked at his own trembling hand and focused as much as he could. He needed the power he had discovered to help them somehow.
But… how did I activate it the first time?
Back then, he had felt energy in his palm; but now it was blank, empty. The trembling in his hand increased as the ghost floated closer, showing off its bloodied teeth.
Come on, come on! Why isn't it working?
"Mephiles?" Penumbra's distressed whisper caused him to work harder. They needed to get out of here, to get help.
Please, just… please!
His hand wasn't listening to him, and the ghost laughed once more like it was enjoying his failure. The other ghosts joined in, the garbled noise shattering his concentration.
We…We can't die here! Nummy doesn't deserve this, and I… I am-
Then Mephiles saw nothing but light.
Shadow glared at all of the robots surrounding him, wanting to separate Eggman from the mysterious emerald as soon as possible. He was growing tired of these damn mind games.
"They should go down easily," Shadow told the ones behind him, going off the fact that the illusion from earlier disappeared in one hit.
"It's not their defense I'm worried about…" Silver muttered with a frown. "If we can touch them, does that mean they can attack us?"
Sonic clenched his fists, shifted his weight, and smirked. "Well, let's not give them the chance!" He jumped into the air and spin dashed the nearest Bat-bot, making it fade away above the rocky platform.
The robots beside him took their time in reacting, being slammed into by a bundle of blue quills the next second. A couple palms were aimed in Sonic's direction, and Silver took care of the threats by mentally grabbing and smashing them into their robotic brethren. Another five disappeared from sight.
Shadow furrowed his brow, keenly observing. These illusions were physically real, but there seemed to be a delay in response to anything. The first Bat-bot hadn't reacted at all, and now…
The striped hedgehog noticed ears perking in his periphery. Shadow dashed over and punched the robot in the face, kicking three of its neighbors in their torsos afterwards. Shadow then curled up and slammed into three more slow-moving bots. He landed at the edge of the platform, watching the bodies fade away over the shifting sands below.
"Watch your back, Shads!"
Shadow whirled around at Sonic's words only to find a hand shoved into his face. It would've been a minor threat if the Bat-bot hadn't been surrounded by a cyan aura.
Silver nodded at him. "I gotcha!" The offending bot was then hurled at two more off to the side.
Sonic snickered after beheading one of the illusions. "Gettin' sloppy over there, Shadow?"
"If sloppy means figuring out what the hell is going on, then yes," he bit back, swallowing a groan when a weak bout of dizziness hit him. Shadow searched around and found the culprit immediately. He worked through the unsteadiness to charge and rip those ears clean off, kicking the robot for good measure.
The ears flickered away after a moment, and Silver spoke from behind him over the noise of clanking metal and flying sparks, "Those vibrations aren't as strong as the ones Bat can make." Shadow looked over to see him crushing a Bat-bot with the curl of his fingers. Silver glanced from Sonic to Shadow. "Is it because these aren't the real thing? Off-brand copies?"
"Yeah, probably." Sonic brought a heel down onto a face laying at his feet. He sprung up to avoid a blast of air from his left and stomped down on the head of the one who sent it. "Because Bat's attacks are no joke. Rosy, TT, and Red wouldn't have lost if they fought one of these dollar knock-offs."
Shadow hummed as he roundhouse kicked a bot who had gotten too close. This was interesting. He believed – hoped – that this was proof that the emerald had limits. Intangible illusions were seemingly fine, but tangible ones took more energy and were less reliable.
Number could be a factor, but considering the dwindling amount of robots and the lack of endurance buffs, that wasn't the case.
Shadow hissed when he was blasted with air, causing his side to sting. Growling, he zoomed over and sent his fist right through the Bat-bot's chest.
"What did I tell ya about being sloppy?"
"Shut up, Faker. This isn't the time for-" Shadow cut himself off when, yet again, thundering boosters echoed in the entrance of the pyramid. The hedgehogs stilled to listen, and Silver crushed the last remaining robots.
"More?" Silver asked, shocked. "Don't tell me that there's an endless supply or something!"
"Don't get your hopes up…" Sonic said as a second wave of Bat-bots flooded the area, quickly replacing the ones there before.
When the robots circled around them, Shadow's jaw clenched. They didn't have time for this. The rest of their group was still missing, and who knew what was going on in that pyramid.
He eyed the newcomers, mind whirling. The emerald was doing this by influencing their minds, or something similar. They were within its range of influence. That meant that there was a set distance beyond its grasp.
At least, that was his guess. If it was true, then they would be able to think about their situation without fighting these irritants at the same time.
"Silver," Shadow called out, punching a nearby bot and side-stepping a high kick. When the psychic looked at him, hints of frustration on his face, he continued, "Fly out as far as you can to test out if you'll still be affected."
Silver slammed three mechs against the ground, gaze questioning. "Be affected?" He perked up once he understood. "By the emerald! That's a good idea! Then we won't have to deal with this mess right now." He got ready to blast off. "Just don't get sloppy while I'm gone."
Sonic barked out a laugh while Shadow sent him a death glare.
Silver took a deep breath once he escaped the bot brawl, propelling himself away from the pyramid. He hoped that Shadow was on to something here, for they didn't need this on top of the mystery pyramid maze problem.
He peeked backwards and wasn't surprised to see a handful of Bat-bots flying after him. Silver's attention drifted back to the platforms down below. Sonic and Shadow were taking care of themselves just fine without him, taking down the mechs with practiced ease.
Silver was about to face forward again, but the robots on his tail suddenly stopped mid-air. He slowed down and rose a curious brow. They were still staring at him; however, they refused to move another inch forward.
After a few seconds, the group forgot all about him and flew back to Sonic and Shadow. Silver tapped his chin pensively before slowly floating forward. He did so until those same robots turned back around, aiming for him once more.
He floated backwards. They stopped. One, two, three seconds ticked by, and they were leaving again.
So, Shadow had been kinda right. But instead of disappearing like Silver thought they would, the robots just stopped caring. Maybe they couldn't go past that point? That had to be it. He would take that over nothing.
Silver darted back over to his friends, destroying the wishy-washy robots in the process.
Sonic noticed the psychic making his way back over, and he assumed it was with good news because he didn't fly too far away from them.
After taking off a mechanic leg, he loudly asked, "Was Shads right, Silver?"
"Yeah!" he answered, swooping down and slamming robots into each other. "The bots don't disappear, but they stopped following after a certain point! The emerald does have some kind of range!"
"Really? Awesome! Something's goin' our way for once!" Thinking on his feet, Sonic zipped over to the plane at the far edge of the craggy platform. "Keep them away while I crank this bad boy up!"
Silver thrust out a shield that held the robots at bay while the engine rumbled. Shadow gave the speedster a skeptical glance. "Can you even fly that thing?"
"Of course I can!" Sonic chirped as he prepped for flight. "The Tornado was mine before Tails went to town on it. And this old plane doesn't seem too fancy, so yeah!"
Shadow narrowed his eyes. Silver understood his hesitation. "Uh… I'll be plan B if we need it."
Sonic shook his head and tsked. "No faith! I'm insulted."
"It's for good reason, Faker," Shadow said as he hopped into the seat behind Sonic. The pilot simply chuckled at that, grinning when the plane successfully began to roll. The platform was just big enough to pick up the necessary speed to get them airborne.
Silver waited for a bit before lowering the barrier and flying after the aircraft. The plane hadn't been going top speed, so he caught up with it in no time, settling on the wing to give his mind some rest.
"Gotta go a little farther out," he said to Sonic as he kept a keen eye on the bots.
"Roger that!" Sonic flipped a couple notches on the dashboard, observant of the dials. The speed steadily increased.
It wasn't long before the Bat-bots halted as planned.
Shadow frowned at this. He didn't think that Silver had lied, but it was another thing to experience it first-hand. "Since they're still there, then they couldn't be caused by the manipulation of our minds. They have to be real, to an extent."
Silver didn't know how he felt about the news. "So the emerald is spitting out actual clones?"
"Dollar knock-offs," Sonic reminded, gently curving the plane so that it flew along the perimeter of the supposed threshold. "But I get what you're sayin', though. Fighting a lot of those things at once could become a problem."
The Bat-bots never took their eyes off them. Silver shook off the eerie feeling. "Yeah… like for the others inside." In a group, they would be fine, but what if they had split up for some reason? He eyed the towering pyramid. "We need to get in there."
"You're tellin' me…" Sonic pursed his lips. He studied the base's sloped walls and asked, "You guys think we could throw the emerald for a loop if we blasted a hole in the side and went from there?"
"The gem had been a Chaos emerald, Faker. I doubt anything could trick it." Shadow shut that idea down. Making their own entrance could still end up with them being turned around with those Bat clones waiting for them.
Sonic would've thrown his hands in the air if they had been free. "Then what else can we do? We don't really have a lot of options here, and it doesn't sit right that our friends are in there fending for themselves."
Shadow didn't get to reply to him. A massive blast startled the trio of hedgehogs, and they whipped their heads in time to catch a thick white beam of light cutting through the air, reaching for the sky. It only lasted a moment, but it had been enough to leave behind a gaping hole in the pyramid, stone and dust raining down all around.
Silver's eyes were blown wide. "What in the world was that?"
"Our way in!" Sonic steered the plane toward the hole, which was more than wide enough for their ride to fit. They needed to investigate that beam pronto because none of their friends could do anything like that. Eggman had to be on the move.
Silver blinked at him. "Huh? But what about the…" He looked back at where the Bat-bots were; or at least where they were supposed to be. "Wait, they're gone!"
Shadow tried and could not find a single one of them. Just another piece to this confusing puzzle. "We'll deal with them later if need be." The origin of the beam was at the top of his priority list. If it had been Eggman, then something or someone had to have triggered the attack.
"And hopefully the emerald will be nice to us so we don't go in circles…" Silver murmured, bracing himself for what was to come.
Because there was a chance that the emerald could still mess with them, Shadow suggested, "Faker, you stay out here with the plane while Silver and I go in."
"What?" Sonic was fully against that. "Why?"
"So we have someone on the outside who won't be affected by whatever trick the emerald pulls out next."
"This isn't an argument."
Sonic huffed. "Fine! But you better not get into any trouble in there!"
Shadow just grunted, and Silver mimicked Sonic from earlier, shaking his head. "No faith? Some friend you are." After the speedster rolled his eyes, Silver used his powers to fly Shadow and himself closer to the hole. Sonic veered off, returning back to the perimeter.
At the wall now, Silver stifled his coughs and peered into the base. Sunlight now filtered into a vacant room, its rays being scattered by the debris in the air.
He didn't hear or see any enemies within, but his attention was grabbed by the jagged hole in the stone floor, undoubtedly caused by the beam.
Silver glanced over at Shadow, and they nodded to each other. The psychic flew them diagonally through the room and down the second hole, shallowly coughing.
The next room was nothing more than a ruined hallway at this point. Chunks of stone were strewn all over the place, lit torches littered the ground, and the air quality became worse.
Silver waved the dust out of his face, coughing again, and attempted to count how many floors the beam had gone through. It wasn't too many; he saw at the very end that there was a room without a hole. The streaming sunlight lit up the ground down there.
The was no sign of Eggman anywhere, though, and it was a little too quiet.
"Should we call out, or…?" Silver started, unsure.
"No. We don't know who or what-" Shadow cut himself off because there was movement far down below. A dark figure was stepping into the light, raising a hand to shield from the sun.
When the figure began to wave, Silver gasped. "Is that… that's Penumbra!" He rushed deeper into the pyramid, dragging Shadow along with him until they were face-to-face with Nummy.
They weren't prepared for what they saw.
Shadow, now freed from Silver's hold, examined Penumbra in muted shock. His eyes immediately zeroed in on his mangled arm. Torn muscle was exposed and his fur was matted with blood. His leg had similar injuries, but it was in much better condition. Aside from the blatant wounds, Shadow saw the black splatters on his arms that contrasted the red, wondering what the hell that was.
Silver was gaping. "Penumbra, what happened?"
Despite being in their presence, Nummy didn't look relieved at all. "A lot, but no questions!" He pointed to the side with his good arm. "Help Mephiles!"
"Mephiles?" Silver, along with Shadow, followed his finger and promptly stiffened.
Mephy was marginally illuminated by the light, tucked into the shade. He was laying on his side, his whole body trembling like he'd been abandoned in a freezer. A black liquid dribbled from his mouth and splashed the ground every time he coughed.
When a trembling hand reached for them, Silver snapped out of his daze. He carefully wrapped Mephiles up in his powers and floated him over. More of the black liquid stained the ground; Silver hated what it reminded him of.
Shadow shared his same thoughts. He gave Mephy a once-over, addressing Nummy, "Penumbra, tell me exactly what happened. Now."
His demanding tone gained him a confused look from his twin, but Nummy complied anyway. "We lose friends and was stuck here." He held his injured arm close and quietly whined. "Fight big white ball with teeth and smaller ones too. Got hurt a lot." Penumbra frowned at Mephiles, concern swirling in his eyes. "Mephiles use light to kill them…"
"Whoa, whoa… Mephiles caused that beam?!" Silver nearly yelled, Nummy nodding at him. It was a little harder for Silver to breathe when he faced Shadow. "Didn't Sonic get hit by-"
"Yes," Shadow's response was terse. He looked at Mephy, and glazed reptilian eyes looked right back until a coughing fit wracked the other's system. Globs of blackness puddled on the ground.
Shadow and Silver went silent, causing Penumbra to speak up. "Can we leave?"
"Uh…" Silver swallowed, managing a smile. "Uh, yeah. Sonic's waiting for us outside." Nummy smiled, and Silver blasted all four of them through the many floors and back out into the dry desert air.
Eggman couldn't help but to think that he might have the winning ticket here.
A victorious grin nearly split his face in half when those rodents resorted to fleeing. Eggman gleefully watched the large screen in front of him, which showed the feedback of the many cameras placed around the base. Some of the squares were filled with static from damage over time, but he had more than enough to document this success.
It didn't surprise him that the trio of hedgehogs had discovered the emerald's range – it was something for him to note – but doing so did not put them at an advantage. Any attempt to find the amazing gem would be for naught.
Creating perfect illusions, manifesting limitless copies, the emerald had it all.
That didn't mean there weren't places to test and improve upon. For example, expanding the range was a must, and while Eggman approved of the horde of copies, them going down in one hit wasn't good enough. He needed perfect physical clones.
He was sure that he could achieve that in due time.
Once the annoyances left, of course. And they would because it was near impossible for them to get past this security system.
Eggman hummed as he switched his gaze from one blue rodent to another. Sonic's double and his posse were making their way through the pyramid, but they were nowhere close to the room the doctor claimed as his new office. If they got too close for his liking, the emerald would turn them back around, simple as that.
Eggman laughed loudly, too giddy about the discovery of his new toy to care. He had a chance now. He had a chance to beat that blue hedgehog once and for all by himself.
"U-Uh… Do you always randomly laugh like that?"
Eggman cut his eyes to the robot standing beside him, not appreciative of the teasing grin sent his way. "Hush, you." His smirk returned as he held up the magenta emerald shining brightly in his palm. "I only do that when victory is in sight! I will find out every secret this emerald has to offer, and then Sonic and his friends are going to suffer!"
"Y-You're really passionate about this, man!" Bat pointed to the screen with a blue hedgehog flying a plane. "T-That's the Sonic you mean, right? H-He must've messed up your life real bad to do this stuff! W-Why didn't you want me to take him to the ghost guy?"
"I have my reasons," Eggman answered, his happiness pushed aside for a moment at that reminder. He had initially only wanted Penumbra to face King Boom Boo because of his meddlesome abilities, but the reappearance of Mephiles had puzzled him.
He was supposed to be dead, killed from the trap the traitorous chameleon had set up. The reptile and the rodents all acted like he had been dead, so why was he here?
Eggman wouldn't have cared this much if Mephiles didn't pose a major threat.
He didn't expect the ghost to kill those two, no. Eggman simply wanted the duo injured enough to be rendered useless and to be a good incentive for the heroes to leave the base.
Eggman pensively tapped the emerald in his hand, thinking of the possible ways Sonic had somehow managed to revive Mephiles. He had witnessed one way a while back, but that surely didn't-
He was thrown out of his thoughts when the magenta emerald vibrated violently in his hands. Eggman sucked in a harsh breath when the air around the gem glitched.
Bat peered closer at it, tilting his head. "W-Why is it freaking out?"
"Do you think I know?" Eggman snapped. His shock then escalated when a booming blast sounded from somewhere up above, causing some loose rocks to rain down on them. "Now what is going on up-"
Eggman's hand suddenly felt empty.
Bat blinked at the man's bare palm. "T-That's major bad luck, dude."
Eggman ignored him completely, quickly studying the screens for the emerald that seemed to have a blasted mind of its own. It wasn't hard to find, bouncing from room to room every five seconds.
It was only a matter of time until-
"I-It's in the same room as them, boss. U-Uh-oh, they got it and… and they're gone. T-That's really wild, man."
Eggman resisted the urge to dismantle.
Grey nearly jumped out of his skin when a rumble thundered in the distance. He whipped his head to the left, gawking at a stone wall. "We're gonna die, aren't we? We're seriously gonna die this time."
Boom glared at him. "Don't you ever shut up?" His bark echoed around the small room they were in. The blue hedgehog backed away from the ledge he was about to jump up to, the door above their heads momentarily forgotten.
Boom listened for any more blasts, but there were none. "We need to go in that direction. Some bullshit's happening over there." It was the only hint they had that they weren't alone in this stupid base.
"Maybe the next room will have a path that goes in that direction!" Tails suggested, about to fly onto the ledge, but he paused. After eyeing Boom's wound, he hesitantly asked, "Do you want any help getting up? Since-"
"Fuck off," Boom dismissed him, and Grey deadpanned at Tails.
The kit meekly shrugged. At least he could say that he tried.
Tails whirled his namesakes to take off, but something in his periphery made him turn. He gasped at the magenta jewel laying right there on the ground. "Guys, look! Look!"
"Huh?" Boom craned his neck to see, narrowing his eyes. That couldn't be the real thing. "It's a damn trap, isn't it? An illusion?"
Grey mentally picked the gem up and pulled it to him. When Boom and Tails moved closer, all of them now soaked in a magenta glow, Grey couldn't help but to smile at their luck. "Well, it's safe to say that it's-" His voice was reduced to a squeak when their surroundings changed. They were in a completely different room standing on top of a loop-de-loop. "-real."
"The hell?!" Boom quickly slid away from the edge he was too close to.
"It's definitely real alright…" Tails was dumbfounded, reaching for the glitching emerald. "No fake would be able to do this!" Before he got to touch it, their surroundings changed again. They didn't have enough time to process the new room before they were teleported again. They were met with the sun's blinding rays.
The second that Grey realized that they were now outside, a frantic shout filled the air. He glanced down, noting how far up he was off the ground and how Boom was currently freefalling to the sands below.
The psychic busied himself with trying to figure out where they were, acting like he hadn't seen. The pyramid was a bit of a distance away, but the entrance tunnel to the base was straight ahead. Despite what the emerald had done, he was thankful that it had made leaving the place so much easier.
Tails was lifting Boom back up to his altitude at this point, and Grey ignored the speedster's furious glower. "So, we got the emerald…" He flipped said gem in the air. Apparently, it was done with the random teleporting. "What now?"
"I know what I'm going to do as soon as we hit solid ground," Boom threatened with a snarl.
Tails had to defuse the situation again. He quickly answered Grey's question. "We gotta try to find everyone else…" He zeroed in on the rocky platform connected to the entrance and saw that his plane was missing. Either one of their friends was flying it, or, worst case scenario, it had been destroyed by Bat or Eggman.
"Hey, look over there!" Grey pointed to their right at something in the distance. "I didn't know your Sonic was a pilot, Tails!"
Tails squinted against the light and smiled brightly at the sight of Sonic piloting the aircraft. Relief rolled off his shoulders, wasting no time in flying in that direction. "If he's okay, then maybe Shadow and Silver are too!"
Up ahead, Sonic was keeping an eye on the hole, thinking that if Shadow and Silver weren't back in the next minute or so, he was going in after them. He refused to fly in any more circles after that.
Sonic perked up at the sound of his name, hastily searching around until he found Tails. The kit was waving with one hand, carrying a forever-grumpy Boom with the other. Grey was floating beside him with… was that an emerald? The emerald they were looking for?
"Hey!" he shouted as loud as he could over the winds. Sonic brought the plane down for a landing on the closest sturdy-looking platform. It had been within the radius of the emerald's control, but he didn't have to worry about that anymore.
After landing, Sonic hopped out of the pilot seat and waved enthusiastically back. When the trio got close enough, Sonic scanned them for injuries and relaxed when he didn't find anything major. Grey had a bruise on his cheek, and Boom had… bite marks? They didn't seem too deep, though.
"You guys found the emerald!" he cheered. "That's awesome!"
"More like the emerald found us!" Tails snickered when he safely released Boom, the blue hedgehog rotating his shoulder. Tails was glad that he wouldn't be the one to break things up anymore. "We were deep in the base and then poof! It was right there!"
"Huh… I wonder what caused that to happen?" Sonic asked. Usually Chaos energy caused the emerald to go on the fritz, so unless Eggman had a Chaos emerald too, he had no clue.
Tails was no more knowledgeable than he was. "No idea!"
Sonic pursed his lips but pushed that aside for now. Drifting his focus from Tails, he witnessed Boom throwing a punch at the back of Grey's head only for a blue shield to stop it. Grey smirked, Boom scowled, and Sonic wasn't going to question that. Instead, "You three were together? No Nummy and Mephy?"
Grey shook his head, twirling the emerald with his powers. "Nah, because…" He focused above Sonic's head, and his jaw slackened. "Because they're right there."
The blue hero spun on his heel and stumbled back in shock. Penumbra waved lethargically when Silver grounded him, his movements paired with badly veiled winces. His other arm was in terrible shape, still bleeding.
"Happy to see all you okay," Nummy rasped.
"I wish I could say the same to you, bud! And…" Sonic trailed off when he looked at Mephiles. He was taken aback at the mess, the shaking, and how unresponsive he seemed. Mephy was still being supported by telekinesis. Sonic shot Shadow and Silver a questioning glance.
Shadow took the initiative to respond. "They found King Boom Boo." Tails and Sonic stiffened. "They won because Mephiles shot him with the laser."
Sonic tensed, glimpsing over to Mephy. His eyes met the other's jaded greens. A black liquid dripped from his chin. Something in Sonic's gut twisted. "He shot it?" he repeated in disbelief, and Shadow and Silver nodded simultaneously.
Tails' voice was weaker. "So that's what caused the blast from earlier…"
Boom figured that he was missing something important here, but he didn't give a shit. Someone shooting a laser should not leave the person in that condition. "Is no one going to ask why the fuck he's like that?! The hell is that black stuff?"
"We don't know," Shadow uttered, and Boom furrowed his brow at the obvious lie.
"Well…" Grey couldn't decide who was worst off. Penumbra was bleeding from multiple places and his arm was the main source of that, but Mephiles… something wasn't right. "Can we stop standing around and get going, then? We gotta get help for them and I really don't want Eggman catching us out here."
"Yeah…" Sonic's smile was back. He gave a thumbs up. "Yeah, you're right, Grey! Let's get out of here before Eggface shows his head!"
Silver carefully guided Mephy into the back seat of the plane, securing him in. Mephiles stared at him before sloppily signing, "Thank you."
"Anytime," Silver said with a nod, conflicted. He was extremely worried about his condition, but at the same time, the coincidences kept adding up.
"You're gonna be okay ridin' on the wing again, Nummy?" Sonic asked Penumbra, for they didn't have another seat for him.
"I'll be okay," he reassured before going over and boarding one of the wings with one arm. His movements were somewhat clumsy, but he managed.
Grey had a feeling he wouldn't last long. "If it hurts too much, I'll be there to catch you, 'kay?" Penumbra nodded in appreciation.
Shadow wordlessly settled beside Nummy on the wing, and Boom claimed his spot on the left one. No one commented on how he chose to be closer to the body of the plane this time.
Sonic crouched beside his twin and called to Tails, "We're all set! Ready when you a-"
A strangled noise coming from Mephiles interrupted him, and the shadow 'hog shot forward in his seat, wheezing.
"What's going on now?!" Grey yelled in panic.
His shout seemed to startle Mephy, for he jumped a bit. He searched and found the psychic floating in the air, confusion settling in his expression at his presence and at the emerald in his possession. Actually, Mephiles was puzzled by everything around him, his brow deeply furrowing.
Then he noticed his messy hands. He stared at them in shock, turning them over before swiftly signing, "What happened?" Mephy made eye contact with Boom, silently pleading for him to translate and answer. "What's the black stuff? How did everyone find each other?"
Everybody was looking at Boom now. He disregarded them and the questions. What in the hell is going on here? "Tell me the last thing you remember."
Mephiles gestured at Penumbra. "I was in the room with him. Ghosts were surrounding us and then I…don't know anything after that."
"The hell you mean you don't know?" This wasn't making any sense. "How you do forget firing a giant laser?"
Mephy stilled. He did what?
"Wait, you don't remember?" Grey floated next to Mephy, dumbfounded. "But you weren't unconscious or anything!"
The conversation was cut short by Shadow's near growl. "We'll solve the mystery of this later. We need to leave. Tails, fly the plane."
Tails completely understood his haste. "On it!"
Penumbra frowned over at Shadow, flinching when the bumps irritated his injuries. "Why are you mean?"
Shadow ignored him and Boom's sharp gaze.
Mephy splayed out his drenched fingers once more as wind whipped through his quills. We found each other, we got the emerald, and I got rid of the ghosts with a…a beam! Why don't I…?
"Don't worry too much, Mephy!" Sonic advised with a placating grin. "We'll crack the case when we get back home!"
Mephiles really hoped that he would keep his word.
"S-So why couldn't I just take the emerald from them?"
Bat was sitting on top of the pyramid, conversing by internal communicator as the plane flew over the horizon. It was nothing but a small speck in the sky.
"Because you wouldn't be able to! Not against all of them! Plus, the emerald is in their hands now. We can't take it by force, not at the moment."
Bat pondered that wording. "B-But we will eventually?" He did have that tracker, after all.
Inside the base, Eggman was still in his office, scanning his cameras. There were multiple angles of the light beam that blasted through the walls, including the one of its source.
He studied the outstretched hands and the glowing green eyes with a prominent frown.
They got the emerald, yay! Now everyone can just go back home and relax with no worries!
...But the story wouldn't be exciting if I let them do that, now would it?