SONIC REVOLUTION

Prologue

The bus was headed to the stop at Vance Street. Leo O'Connell had two stops left before he was home. Home at last. It had been a while. Of course, this conflict wasn't nearly as long or taxing as the last Great War of Mobius, but nevertheless took him away from his family and friends. Although he was happy for that, it wasn't his main concern as he returned.

The bus halted. A few other soldiers walked off the bus, mostly ones he didn't know. Those who he did know were so eager to get off that they didn't even notice him. There were still plenty of filled seats. The driver shut the door and drove off again.

He was sure there would be some kind of celebration for his return. After all, he was the only male left in his nuclear family, and so far the only one in his extended family to survive both Mobius wars. His uncle, dad, cousin Sara and older brother James had been killed in either the first or second war.

Another stop. Only two got off here, none of which he knew. Off they went. Leo would be getting off at the next stop.

James had been listed as "missing in action" for quite some time. Leo figured the army had simply listed him as killed in action simply so they wouldn't have to keep sending recon teams out to find him. One of these days, Leo promised himself he would go back to Mobius and find him.

The bus came to a stop again. Through the window on his side of the bus, he could see most of his relatives, including his mother, waiting for him.

He rose, along with a few other troops. On his way out, his comrades bid adieu to him. "See ya next time, Blade." "Good job, Bladeage." "Later, Blade."

Blade. The nickname he had received in the first war when his brother had gone missing. Only his weapon remained, the family treasure called the Fire Sabre. It was always given to the first-born of the family, male or female. The troops in his company brought it back to Leo after one of the earlier fights. The tradition didn't say who should get the sword should the first-born die before they have children, but Leo decided to start a new part of the tradition. He would take up the blade. In the last two wars, he was a driving force with the sword, known by other regiments as the warrior Red. Those who knew him just called him Blade. The big army joke was that Red and Blue (the other mysterious fighter in the wars) made violet and victories. Together, Red, Blue, and the Mobius army defeated the evil Dr. Ivo Eggman and his mechanized army not once, but twice.

The cost was tremendous, though.

Leo got off the bus to a wave of relatives, screams, and hugs. All that he had thought before left him. It was good to be home.

But when the welcome home party had started, Leo got thinking again. He had to find out what had happened while he was gone. There were questions that needed to be answered, and his family wouldn't have him trouble in such "trivial" affairs when he had just gotten back from a war.

Once he had slipped away from the celebration, he walked back into his house. His family wasn't incredibly rich-in fact, they had been poor for longer than Blade was even alive for-and the house was very small. So if something had come, he'd be able to find it fast. A confirmation, a letter, something to answer the burning question that had been bothering him ever since he returned from the first war.

Flipping through some papers-bills, registration sheets, advertisements, magazines, birthday and holiday cards-Leo finally came upon the thing he had been looking for. And it wasn't what he had hoped. Expected, yes, in a way. But not hoped for.

A typed letter in large font. Two pages long. Simple and to the point.

I've got you're little miss with me. I want 50 million Mobians for her safe return. Otherwise, you won't have anyone to worry about next time you go fightin'. I've outwitted the police, and I have more firepower than them, anyway, so don't go crying to them or your military pals for help, either. Send the money through special shipping to the planet Mobius with the numbers 575830219 on the delivery line. I'm waiting, little Morphion.

Of course, not everyone who fought in the Mobius war was from Mobius. Some came from its three moons. Leo had come from the largest one, Morphos.

He knew he couldn't pay the ransom. 50 million Mobians was equivalent to $200 thousand, and his family wasn't exactly in good financial straits. And his lucky stone, which he had found while fighting, wouldn't cover the costs. He knew it was valuable, but it was no Chaos Emerald. He had to get Cassie back somehow. It looked like his fighting wasn't quite over yet. And a new career as a detective was about to start.

But he couldn't just go out as Leo O'Connell. The kidnapper probably knew all about him, and if he knew he was snooping around, it was going to be a hell of a lot harder to catch him. He needed an alias.

He didn't need to look much further than his holster to get it.

Chapter 1

Fates Intertwine

Like he usually did in his spare time, Sonic was on vacation. He was getting very cautious about his vacations in Capital City, though, usually because certain conflicts kept getting in the way of them. Like the last time, when he was arrested for crimes he didn't commit. Or the time before, when a blue monster named Chaos began terrorizing the city. Thus, he decided on somewhat of a road trip, except with running instead of a car. In a few days, he'd leave to find another vacation spot, away from the action and possible peril of the city.

Sonic reclined on a beach chair far from the ocean. Although he loved the sun and sand, he couldn't stand the water. He wasn't sure why, but he guessed it might have to do with the fact that he couldn't swim. His shades flipped over his eyes and a cool lemonade at his side, he figured he was the coolest thing this beach had ever seen. And why not? With his spiked hair, sleek blue color, red high tops, and awesome demeanor, he must be the epitome of cool.

He saw two girls walk in front of him-one human and one hedgehog, like himself. The blonde woman appeared to be about nineteen and sported a tight pink bikini and a gorgeous tan. The hedgehog woe a hat and sunglasses and a nice red bathing suit. Both were very easy on the eyes. Time to put some of that cool to work.

Sonic strolled up to the ladies and stopped right behind them. By now, they had sat down and were talking to each other. When they didn't notice him by his presence alone, he tapped both of them on the shoulder. They both whirled around to face him.

"Sorry to disturb you young ladies," Sonic said casually, "but I can't seem to see the ocean with your radiance in the way."

"Oh," responded the woman. "We'll move if you'd like us to."

Okay, Plan A didn't work. Let's go to Plan B, Sonic thought.

"Oh no," he told her, "I wouldn't want your beautiful frames to be burdened with that kind of work."

"Okay then." The woman turned away, reading a book. The hedgehog hadn't said anything or even moved, since he got there. Sonic was getting frustrated.

"I really liked that one," he piped up to the woman reading the book. "Very intriguing," he added, having no clue what she was reading.

The woman looked up again. "Are you lost?" she asked. Sonic could hear the hedgehog snicker, although he couldn't see her face.

Instead of losing it, Sonic used the comment to his advantage. "Actually, I'm very lost in you," he said.

The woman smiled. Sonic thought he had her. "Sorry blue boy, but I try to avoid dating outside my own species."

Damn! He always got burned with that one. Shaking, he decided to play his last resort, albeit cheap, trump card. "You know who I am, don't you?"

"Yes, of course I do."

Silence.

"Well?"

"Well what? How many times do you have to be put down by one person? For a celebrity, you sure seem desperate."

Sonic swore he had turned red by then. He wasn't sure of what, though-by anger or by embarrassment.

"Could you leave?" the woman asked. "You're blocking my rays."

"Grrr…." muttered Sonic as he walked off. He gathered his belongings and prepared to head back to the hotel. From behind him, though, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to see the hedgehog from before.

"Are you here to humiliate me further?" he asked. Then, he reconsidered. "Or would you like a nice dinner on the promenade tonight?"

The girl took off her hat. That's weird, Sonic thought, he thought he had seen that red hair band before. Wait, now he remembered. Uh oh…

The girl hedgehog took off her sunglasses to reveal a pair of green eyes all too familiar to him.

"I'd love to!" squealed Amy.

If Sonic was by himself then, you could bet a string of curses would be spouting from his mouth right about then.

"Whoa whoa whoa, slow down Amy," Sonic insisted, but Amy wouldn't have it.

"You asked me if I'd like a nice dinner on the promenade tonight, and I accepted. So when should I come over? Or were you going to pick me up?"

Sonic couldn't believe the mess he had worked himself into. But Amy had him. For now.

"Okay, Amy. Come to my apartment around 7:00 tonight. I'll be ready."

"Alright, sweetie. See you tonight."

"Don't forget to look your best, beautiful. But that wouldn't be too hard, would it?"

Amy blushed a red brighter than her swimsuit and ran off. Now Sonic was left with the task of getting out of this date without breaking her heart. Of course, that would be impossible, so he'd have to limit the damage.

Sonic headed back to the hotel, flipped out the key to his condo, and opened the door. It was deathly quiet for a second. Then he heard the TV buzzing. He hadn't left the TV on. The lights in the kitchen were on. He didn't remember leaving that on, either. The fridge was propped open, too. He hadn't left that open either.

Walking slowly, he approached the living room. There was a figure laying on his couch. Barely keeping his nerve, he quickly thought of a plan. He picked up a cup and chucked it against a wall. The shattering sound sparked the figure's attention, giving Sonic the chance to dash towards him and get him in a full nelson.

"Okay punk, what's the deal?" Sonic growled at him.

"Mmh…Umh..Sonic!" the familiar voice managed to get out.

"Tails?!" shouted an amazed Sonic. He let his best friend go. "Man, I'm sorry. But why the hell were you in my house? And how did you get in, anyway?"

Catching his breath, the fox Miles Prower, or just "Tails" to his friends, finally managed to get out an answer. "You left your balcony door open. I thought you were home, so I just flew in."

Of course.

"Okay, now that I know how, why?" Sonic demanded.

"I needed to tell you," he responded, his breath now back to him, "the police want you down at the station."

"Why?" He didn't want another ordeal like with Shadow and the Space Colony ARK.

"Dunno," Tails shrugged. "Maybe they need you to help with an investigation or something."

"Yeah, I'll bet." Then he thought, hey, this would be a great way to get out of his date with Amy. He wouldn't hurt her feelings, but he wouldn't have to give in to her silly crush, either.

"Okay, where is the station?" Sonic asked.

"Somewhere on the corner of Acorn and 3rd Street. It's about an hour drive from here. So you should get there in five minutes."

"Yeah, I'll go later. I don't have anything to do tonight."

"Oh really?" said Tails, batting an eyebrow. "How about your big date with Amy?"

"Jiminy Christmas, does everyone on the planet know about this?"

"You're trying to skip out on the date, huh? Amy called about six times asking for you. She wanted know what she should wear."

"Sheesh."

The phone rang again.

"And that's probably her again," Tails laughed.

"Ugh." Sonic picked it up.

"Yo."

"Sonic, I'm bored! Is it seven yet?" Amy asked., the reception crackling with static

"Amy, it's 5:30. You have an hour and a half. Don't worry."

"I'm coming over now. We can have some fun beforehand. Be there in a minute."

Sonic slammed the phone down, a crazed expression on his face. "She's going to be here in one minute."

Someone rang the doorbell.

"And that's probably her, too," Tails cackled. He was enjoying every minute of this.

"How did she get here so fast? I couldn't have done that!"

"Maybe she called on her cell on her way."

"Crazy girl has a mind of her own. Thinks she can just waltz over to my house anytime she pleases."

"Like me." Tails said sarcastically.

Sonic hurried to the balcony. "See ya. You think my little dilemma is so funny, you can go out with Amy." Without another word, he jumped off. Tails looked below and saw Sonic land and immediately take off towards the police station.

The doorbell rang again.

"Guess I'll get it," Tails murmured as he went to the door.

Sonic had forgotten one minor detail of his trip to the police. He had no clue where the corner of Acorn and 3rd Street was. By the time he had gotten useful directions, it was dark out. Around 7:30, he'd say. He laughed as he pictured Tails trying to handle an infuriated Amy.

"What's so funny?" asked a faraway voice.

Sonic froze. For all he knew, someone could be looking at him through a set of crosshairs. He had to see where the voice was coming from.

"It's an inside joke," he yelled to no one in particular. "Who are you, anyway?"

Instead of a voice, he heard the sound of rushing air followed by the planting of feet. Sonic spun around to see a tall, young looking human with scraggly brown hair.

"You're Sonic the Hedgehog , right?" said the man, or boy, depending on exactly how old he was.

"What's it to you?" Sonic growled back. He didn't like this guy, even if he was good.

"I'm here to be sure you don't do anything stupid again."

Sonic was dumbfounded.

"The only stupid thing is challenging me like this. It is a challenge, right?"

"Not directly. But if that's what you think…"

"Fine then, I accept. But remember, no scratching, no biting, and no crying to Mommy."

"I'm not stupid, I know you took that from Artemis Fowl," laughed the boy.

"Hey, you try thinking of one liners quick enough for them to be funny."

"I can, and I also know that that book is probably the most difficult piece of literature you'll ever read."

Sonic didn't have to knock this one back. It was on. Both stared at one another, waiting for the other to make the first move. It seemed like a decade before something happened. A seagull crowed in the distance. The boy looked up at it. Sonic took this time to strike. At mach 3 speed, he charged at him, only to come to a screeching halt at the sight of a sword in front of the boy. He had come within an inch of the tip. The blade had an unusual orange hue around it.

"Nice," Sonic muttered. With a quick move, he knocked the sword high into the air, watching it stab into a nearby building. "But sharp things are dangerous. Let's see what you do without the weapon first."

A roundhouse kick met Sonic's request. The blow sent the hedgehog zooming across the street, just missing a passing bus. By the time Sonic was up, the boy was back on the roof with his sword.

"I can do plenty without the sword, but it's a hell of a lot easier with it. Come up here so you're not flattened into a flat blue disc.

No witty comeback from Sonic this time. He didn't dare risk fighting near the road-it was twilight, and the driving around here wasn't known as "safe." So he jumped to the top of the building with the boy.

"Are you ready yet?" the boy demanded. "Or is it your curfew already?"

Growling, Sonic braced himself. This time, the boy made the first move. He threw his sword at Sonic, which was easy to dodge since he had such a long throwing motion. Sonic stopped running from the sword, then yelped as he barely jumped over the boy, who had careened towards him with a bicycle kick. After ripping the sword out of the wall it was stuck in, he charged Sonic, sword glowing all the brighter. Sonic ducked under the sword and swept the boy's legs. Then, imitating a Mortal Kombat move he had seen before, Sonic hit him with a massive uppercut just as the boy had gotten up. Slowly rising, the boy wiped some blood from his nose and got back into fighting position. Sonic charged again, but when the boy tried the same move, the blue blur jumped over the sweep. Then, while in mid-air, he shoved his legs downward and hammered the boy with a series of kicks to the head. He pushed it too far, though, and the boy figured out how to get out of the beating. Rearing his head back, Sonic hit the boy's rock hard chest, which basically did nothing. Next, he did a flip kick to the hedgehog, sending him high into the night sky. The sword now glowing a dark red, he reared back and prepared to slice the hedgehog as if in a batting motion. In an almost Matrix-like dodge, Sonic twisted and turned around the swinging blade as he plummeted back to the earth. He tried to get the jump on the boy, still recoiling from the swing, and he threw a hard left hook-but in a flash, the boy was gone. Anticipating a move, Sonic ducked as the boy went soaring over his head, blade drawn. Sonic couldn't get another quick move in, though, because the boy whipped around in a prepared stance.

This guy isn't nearly as fast as I am, thought Sonic. But he's quick, and that's almost as bad. No pushover. Just wish I knew what he was doing this for.

Suddenly, a radio on the boy's belt started crackling. A police voice spoke.

"We have a situation in sector D, a number 5075. Proceed with caution, a limited time is had."

"Roger, identical situation number in sector H. Requesting additional officers and a disarming team if possible in each of these sectors. This is an emergency situation. This is not-"

The boy clicked off the radio. "That's a bomb warning. I'm assuming this is your doing, as well, you barbarian?"

"I was just thinking the same of you," Sonic said.

"Whatever. I'm gonna go help out. I'll have to finish with you later. Don't go causing more trouble than you already have."

Before Sonic could respond, the boy was off, jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Sonic wanted to help, but he had no clue where any sector was, and he certainly wasn't going to follow that guy. As if an answer to his problem, he saw a group of squad cars far off in the distance, sirens blaring, racing towards Station Square.

"Well, it's worth a shot," he said. At least he'd have a chance of helping if he went to Station Square.

As he dashed off, he thought to himself, "Man, this is a lot more fun than some lousy date."

Chapter 2

Super Sonic Power

Capital City was pretty big. It was one of the biggest cities in the world. That said, reaching Station Square, the southern section of the city, from the north side was going to take a very long time. Sonic raced ahead of the police cars and dipped in and out of the traffic. The police sirens wailed behind him. At first, Sonic thought it was because of the bomb, but after two of the cars followed him specifically with sirens still sounding, he realized that he was another reason they were using the sirens. Well, there was no shot of them catching him, anyway. He cranked up the speed and left the cop cars in the dust. In fact, he was pretty sure the wind that rushed past him had blown the cars away.

Running to a specific place sounds easy, but when there were tons of cars in the way and there was a time limit, Sonic was feeling the pressure. It didn't help that he saw a giant, gray object streaking across the sky. He thought it was a plane until he saw it smoking in the back. If it was a plane, it was in trouble. Now what?

Then he remembered. Duh! He still had the Emeralds from the Space Colony. He tossed them up in the air and held up his arms, sucking the energy from the gems. In a few moments, he looked like he had fallen in a vat of bleach and somehow dyed his usually emerald eyes red, but he knew he was the golden dynamo, SuperSonic. He had forgotten about traffic, and horns honked from all directions. So he got out of there way. Unfortunately, flying away in a shimmering streak of gold isn't a great way to avoid attracting attention. But it didn't really matter to him. His first priority was to get to that missile.

"EEEARH!"

"Please, have mercy!"

CRASH!!!

Well, there went whatever was left of the TV.

"That lying JERK! I'll kill him, I'll kick his-"

"Amy, it isn't his fault, the police wanted him!"

"I'll bet they did. And he couldn't leave BEFORE our date!"

Tails didn't bother telling her she had come an hour and a half before the date started. The pink hedgehog, now more of a crimson red, had reached "the point of no return," a form which could only be relieved by knocking her out. But there was no way Tails was getting near that living tornado. So his quick mind formulated a plan. Grabbing a piece of the shattered bookcase, he knocked on one of the still standing pieces of the wall.

"Great, he's back!" said Amy. "Now I can trash him. Get the door Tails, or I'll snap your arm in half! I need a running start."

"Sure Amy," Tails murmured. As he approached Amy, he used all his might and clubbed her across the head. Tails wasn't incredibly strong,, so going all out managed to knock her out without severely injuring her.

"Good night," Tails told the unconscious body as he picked her up by the wrists and flew off the balcony, taking her to the beach.

The rush of power was incredible. Sonic had forgotten how great it felt to be super again! Chasing the missile wouldn't be nearly as hard now.

At terminal velocity, SuperSonic was the fastest thing alive, but that didn't mean he was the fastest thing period. He was hoping the missile wasn't the fastest inanimate object, either, or he might not make it. You'd figure he'd have an easier time in the air, but there were plenty of clouds in the sky that night, making it hard to see. That was never good, especially with a passing plane now and then. He had to be really careful. The harsh breeze nearly took off his arms. He wasn't quite at top speed yet. If he was close, the sonic boom would probably knock out at least a couple windows.

The missile smoke was now getting in his way. There was too much going on up here-clouds, smoke, birds, planes, etc. Sonic was getting frustrated. Then he remembered Tails and Amy back at the apartment and broke into hysterics. The laughter seemed to give him an extra boost.

This was it. He could feel it. In a few seconds, he'd reach the sonic boom. But he was still a ways away from the missile. Was supersonic speed going to be enough with so little time.

Like he had predicted, Sonic broke the sound barrier, shattering the windows from below. He quickly caught up to the missile. Now to find out who it belonged to. He assumed it was Eggman…

"What?"

All it read was .com. Oh great. Now when he got home, he could look through the trillions of websites that ended with .com to find out who the missile belonged to.

He was within 2 miles of the city now. Normally, that's plenty of time, but at these speeds, he had about . If he could just get his arms ahead of it, he could knock it away. Stretching them as far as they would go…

"Yes!" His hands were on the nose of the missile. Harnessing all his strength, he swung his body around to the front of the missile, let it come over his head, and hurled it high into space. The only damage it could do there was to the ozone layer, and it was bad enough as it was.

A job well done, Sonic thought. But he couldn't shake two feelings. One, that the .com missile had to do with the mysterious boy with the sword. The second was that he had forgotten something very important. No, he had already ditched Amy's date, and he had already delivered his spare pair of shoes to the polish and repair store. He heard a police siren below.

Oh yeah. Now he remembered.

"KABOOM!" Station Square exploded in a towering inferno.

"Oops."

At this point, you should know that two key characters in our story have woken up and have no clue where they are. The first you already know about. She has woken up lying on the beach in the middle of the night in her best blue dress. She rubbed the back of her throbbing head, wondering, "Where the hell am I?"

The other character we have not met yet; however, you know him very well already. We will not reveal his name yet, but we will say that he has awoken with a stabbing pain in his chest, and absolutely no recognition of anything from the past few weeks. This is actually an improvement over our previous character, who regained memory quickly. He would not regain memory for a while. He was in a psychedelic world of changing colors, shapes, and forms. The one similarity, though, was that he thought the same thing as our previous character: "Where the hell am I?"

"Sonic the Hedgehog!" a policeman had called from a megaphone below. Sonic sighed. You couldn't even go Super anymore without causing a commotion.

"Yeah!" he called from above. He had also forgotten to get to the police office. Oh well. He was just trying to save the city again. Not that it really did anything. "What can I help you with?"

"Come down here. You are under arrest for murder of the first degree and terrorist attacks of the first degree. You have a right-"

But Sonic had cut off the intake back at the work "arrest."

"What are you people talking about? I just saved your city from a missile attack!"

"We bet you did. Just come on down here and receive your medal for doing so."

"And if I don't want a medal?"

"Then we've got a hundred men and mechs with their guns aimed directly at you. When I say the magic word, you'll be shot to a bloody pulp."

"Oh, okay, let me try it. Please?…It doesn't look like it works, Chief."

"Listen here, rodent! You have five seconds to get down here before we open fire."

Rodent. Another one of Sonic's pet peeves.

"The thing is, your guys have ace aim, but are they fast?" Without another word, SuperSonic blasted off into the night sky with a hail of gunfire behind him. He may be outnumbered, but he hadn't lost the ability to be one of the most annoying things on the face of the planet.

"Sorry guys," he shouted back to the infuriated cop team, laughing. "I've got a date with a beautiful woman."

Chapter 3

The Art of Combat

"Wonder what that was all about," Sonic said to himself as he cruised across the night sky. "I didn't kill anyone, or do any terrorist things. I'll have to check the Web and see what's up." He raced on, a golden ray through a black cloth…

Whoa! Where did that come from?!? Sonic went plummeting to the ground, something forcing him downward. Sonic had no time to find out who it was before he blacked out.

"Wake up, convict," a voice barked at Sonic. Shaking his head, trying to get the little purple balls out of his vision, his sight focused in on a set of steel bars in front of him. A cop, or someone like it, had shoved his face as close to the bars as he could.

"It's about time, Sleeping Beauty," he growled. "We're giving you your phone call now. Get out here and hurry up about it."

It finally dawned on Sonic that he was in a prison. He had been caught. His Chaos Emeralds had been taken from him, so going Super was out of the question. He may as well go along with it for now. He followed the cop to a red phone. As Sonic dialed Tails' cell phone, he saw another policeman handing a familiar face an envelope. It was the boy from before. No sword in sight. Suddenly, he had a flashback to his last scene before he was knocked unconscious. He couldn't tell, but the closest match to what had driven him downwards was this boy. He must be a bounty hunter, Sonic thought. That was the only reason he would have attacked him unprovoked.

"Hurry up, convict!" the cop yelled right in Sonic's ear. Quickly, Sonic dialed the last three numbers and waited.

Back at Tails' workshop, the fox was sound asleep when he heard a sound similar to Jimmy Eat World's "Authority Song." Then he remembered it was his cell phone's customized ring tone. He popped out of bed. It was about 5:30 in the morning. Fumbling through his nigh table, he felt around until he felt something similar to the phone. He had to hurry, the ring was already saying "Put my last quarter on," which meant the voicemail would pick up in a second. He yanked it out, but just as he pressed the "Accept Call" button, the ring ended. Damn. Oh well, it probably wasn't important. He plopped back into bed and dozed off.

Just as Sonic was going to leave a voice mail, the cop grabbed the phone and slammed it down. "Too long! Back in your cell, convict.!"

Jeez, Sonic thought. What else could go wrong? He didn't even know what he did yet!

Late that night, Sonic lay in his stone cot. He was to see a judge tomorrow. He couldn't get a good lawyer because he didn't have any money. Why would he? He didn't really have a permanent home, either. He was a nomad, wandering and running from place to place. This meant the state would provide Sonic with some crappy pro bono lawyer who didn't know any more about the law than he did. Well, this was it. This was pretty much the end of the line. Unless they made the mistake of transporting him via air again. They had tried to do that during his escapades with Shadow. It didn't turn out very well for the poor pilot and his crew.

Sonic heard a revving noise. That's weird, he thought, that sounded like Tails' pickup. But he thought that had been in the shop for the past week…

CRASH!

"Good God!" Sonic yelled as he ducked for cover. When the dust settled, he saw a huge hole in the wall. Behind it stood none other than…

"Amy?!?"

"Get in the car, Sonic," Amy told him. But Sonic wasn't listening. He raced out and grabbed Amy by the wrist, hurling her into the car's passenger seat. Amy flew into it first with a shriek, then with an "Oomph!"

Sonic got into the driver's seat and yelled, "What the hell were you doing?"

"Sorry for saving you after you ditched me," Amy sassed back.

Sonic didn't have time to explain his predicament. "Shut up for now, Amy. There's no point in having the cops know you're involved in this. Just duck below the dashboard and I'll get you out of here quick."

"But you don't know how to drive!" Amy cried.

"I won't need to," Sonic grinned devilishly.

The last time she'd seen that look, the most deadly and reckless moment of her life had followed.

Amy was never more scared to death than she was right this second. She didn't have time to scream as Sonic floored it.

Now we jump from our blue Planet Earth to Carnival Island, one of the islands hovering deep in space around Mobius. In it, a news satellite had just delivered universal information to the planet, and there were a few people who weren't very happy about the news.

"So, it's finally happened. That crazy guy finally got himself killed," Espio, a chameleon, commented once the news came in.

"I can't believe it," muttered Vector the crocodile.. The image on TV had drawn his attention away from his headphones. He was listening to the new CD from Mesh Stl.

"I always thought they were so tight," Charmy the bee thought aloud. "What happened to them?"

Mighty was silent for a while. Then, he lifted the TV that had brought them the bad news and threw it across the room.

"I'll kill that rodent!" the armadillo screamed. "I'll tear his head off and mount it on my wall so I can throw darts at it!" He turned to the others. "Let's go. We've got a little trip to a planet called Earth to make."

"Squad 3, do you copy? Over."

"This is Squad 3, we read you loud and clear, over."

"Have you found anything from the car? Over."

"Negative, sir. The car was driven into a ravine. First look shows no signs of survivors. Requesting an official rescue team and an autopsy unit out here if possible. Over."

"Affirmative. What is your location? Over."

"We are somewhere near Bay Avenue. Over."

"Understood. We are sending both a rescue and autopsy team now. Over and out."

"Oh…my…god…" was all Amy could get out as she and Sonic ran away from the burned wreckage of the car.

"Hey, I've gotten you out of tighter spots before," Sonic reminded her. "Did you ever doubt me for a second?"

"No, just the whole damn time!" Amy shouted at him. "Does everything you do involve near death?"

"Well, if it weren't deadly," Sonic explained, "it wouldn't be fun, now would it?"

"Is that all you live for?" Amy demanded. "The thrill of the moment? Just for kicks?"

Sonic paused for a moment.

"Until I find another reason to live." With that, he shot away in a whirl of dust.

"Sonic!" Amy shouted, but there was no use. Suddenly, a light appeared behind her. It was a cop car's headlights.

"SONIC!"

Chapter 4

Dimension 8.75

"You are alive," a voice told him. "You are not gone. You are in a different place, but still alive."

The last thing Knuckles remembered was guarding the Master Emerald. Again. Then, everything had gone dark, instantly. No pain, no nothing. Now he was awake here, in what appeared to be a psychedelic dream world.

"Who are you?" he asked the person hovering over him. She had beautiful blue hair and matching eyes. She appeared to be a human."

"My name is Crystal," she responded with a flowing voice. "You are not dead, though you think you are."

"I know. I sort of got the picture when you told me about three times."

"I apologize."

"Good. Now where am I, Crystal?"

"You are in the place that comes just before heaven. You are in what we call Dimension 8.75."

Knuckles got it almost instantly. Heaven was Cloud Nine, so this being the last place before heaven, it was 8.75. Clever.

"Next question. How did I get here?"

"Back on Earth, you were killed by ways unknown to you and us. However, the Master Emerald, thankful for your guardianship and devotion to it, gave you a single strand of life. You were stopped just before you got to heaven."

Knuckles couldn't believe it. He didn't even remember anything, and yet he knew something had caught him off his guard for just long enough to do him in.

"Wonderful. So instead of heaven, I'm in No Man's Land. I feel so special"

"Not completely," Crystal replied. "There is one way to return to your home dimension."

Crystal was silent.

"So, can you tell me how to do it?" Knuckles asked, impatient.

"There is a labyrinth in this dimension that allows those who pass through it to return to whatever place they came from."

"Well, let's go, then! How do I get there?"

"You simply think of it and you are there."

"Wait," Knuckles said first. "If you can leave whenever you pass through the labyrinth, why don't you leave?"

Crystal was silent.

"I am permanently stuck here. I passed on too many times and could not return home again. Besides, the labyrinth is very deadly and I could not beat it again."

Knuckles knew she was lying, but he had no time for this. He had to find out what was going on and how he died. He thought of the labyrinth and he was instantly at its entrance.

"SONIC!"

Aw man, Sonic thought. He didn't know what to do. If he saved her, the police would know that Amy was involved with Sonic and his breakout. But if he left her, the police might know about her anyway, and she'd be captured. He decided to hide out behind a couple bushes and see what happened.

From what he saw, nothing was happening. The police had stopped to talk to Amy, probably about staying off the road. Amy nodded her head to a question Sonic obviously couldn't hear. She turned away from the police. Sonic prayed she was leaving, hoping the police would leave her. She began to walk away…

Towards another policeman. Who cuffed her instantly.

Damn it!

Sonic burst ahead and snatched Amy up, running away with her in his arms. Gunfire exploded behind him, but he outran all the bullets as he dashed back to his apartment. Then, he reconsidered. The cops would look there first. No, he had to go to the Mystic Ruins and find Tails. But there was Amy to handle. He wasn't strong enough to carry her the whole way, and she wasn't fast enough to escape from the cops.

No time to think. The squad cars were in pursuit. No doubt they would get planes and hunter robots out soon.

It was decision time. Right now. What was he gonna do?

Careening towards the planet Earth was a spaceship holding the Chaotix gang. Gang Mighty was moving back and forth, bobbing and weaving, practicing his fight moves.

"Could you stop that?" Vector pleaded. "You're gonna crash the ship."

Mighty wasn't paying attention. The only words he had said since the news were the ones he spoke on Carnival Island.

"You should know that the only word Mighty reacts to is "dead"," Espio joked as he piloted the ship. Mighty muttered something about "the dead lizard walking" as he continued to train.

The moment Knuckles entered the labyrinth, he knew something was very wrong. Normally, he had the utmost confidence in himself as he entered a challenge. This time, though, he had a feeling like he had no chance. Was it because he had dropped his guard on Earth, which had spurred his death? He didn't know, but he did know he had no other option.

The ceiling and floor was flashing various colors, like the rest of the dimension had. The walls were pitch black. It was almost like a void that Knuckles could walk right into. The first time he touched it, though, he received a massive electrical jolt, telling him not to have that happen again. This meant he could not scale the massive cave without having a ton of volts put through him. There went his advantage. He could still fly for a bit, but in a close-quarters hallway like the many corridors the labyrinth had, it wouldn't help. He needed to climb.

As he wandered through the odd maze, he came across numerous weak enemies, which he disposed of with ease. Then came a vicious part. Ahead of him came a stretch with a black floor and flashing ceiling. Great, Knuckles thought. He could still climb on the ceiling, but he soon realized there came another area not too far ahead that had no flashing areas-pure black. As he moved ahead on the ceiling, trying to figure his situation out with an upside-down view, it came to him that his only choice was to glide a bit, then defy gravity by shooting back upwards once the ceiling started flashing again. Once he reached the black ceiling, he jumped and began gliding. Once he reached another flashing ceiling, he lunged with all his might to latch onto it. He couldn't.

Okay, new plan, he thought. Knuckles would have to take a jolt as he touched the ground, then shoot up immediately to grab the ceiling, getting as little pain as possible. He slowly fell to the black floor.

When is this shock coming, Knuckles thought. Then, he saw how far below the flashing walls he was.

There was no black floor. There was no electric floor. There was no floor period.

The spaceship landed safely in what appeared to be an abandoned ruin. The gang landed right next to an old pyramid. Even though Charmy was the fastest and closest to the door, Mighty was the first one out. The powerful armadillo examined the area and found the slightest trace of civilization far off, past the forest.

"Come on guys," he growled. "We've got a little visit to make to one Sonic the Hedgehog."

Chapter 5

Thrill Seekers

"AAAHHHH!"

"See?" Sonic yelled back to Amy. "Aren't you disappointed that you missed out on all my water ski trips?"

"No!" Amy yelled back to him as water sprayed into her face.

"Oh well," Sonic shrugged. He was glad he had kept his jet ski instead of pawning it for cash. It came in handy, especially now when the police were chasing him and Amy.

"Sonic, there's some police ships ahead of us! Now what?" Amy asked.

Sonic rolled his eyes. "Jeez, Amy, don't you have any trust in me?" He thrust the accelerator forward and headed right towards the boats.

"Are you trying to get us killed?" Amy howled, covering her eyes.

"No, just havin' some fun," he chuckled.

"Sonic the Hedge-" a policeman on one of the boats started, but there was no chance. The boats didn't take into account the fact that he would just head right towards them. Sonic threaded the needle between two boats and left a trail of splashing water behind he and Amy.

"Hope Tails has an extra bed," Sonic joked as he zipped towards the Mystic Ruins. Amy shook her head behind him.

"Do you ever learn?" she wondered aloud.

"Well," Sonic responded, "if I did learn, would I do this?" He turned the jet ski around and rode back towards the police boats.

"Good lord, what in God's name are you doing?" Amy shrieked. "Wait, let me guess. Having some fun?"

"Wow, you do learn, unlike me," Sonic yelled back.

"Please, Sonic, don't do this!" the pink hedgehog pleaded.

"Sorry, but I never learn." The police boats got closer.

"SONIC!"

"Yeah? I'm waiting."

"All right! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! You can do it whatever way you want!" Amy screamed, almost sobbing out of fear.

"Now THAT'S what I wanted to hear," Sonic said, satisfied. He whirled around away from the police boats and rocketed back in his initial direction. After all that screaming, the roaring of the jet ski seemed calm.

If we get to Tails' place tonight, Sonic thought, she's sleeping outside.

After ravaging through the forest, Mighty, Espio, Vector, and Charmy wandered into a clearing in the ruin. There was an ocean in the distance. To their left was a couple more caves, on the right was a train stop and a hole in a mountain, and straight ahead was a hill with a small house on it. Smoke pumped from the top of the tiny home. Someone was home, or they were very irresponsible.

"Looks like we have our first lead," Mighty told his friends.

"How do we know the people in that house know about this?" Charmy asked the armadillo.

Mighty groaned. "Come on, Charmy, everyone on this planet has heard about this. If they haven't, they've been living in a hole twenty miles below ground inside a cave while wearing earplugs."

"Or they're dead," Espio chuckled.

In one swift motion, Mighty had Espio held high over his head yelling bloody murder. Mighty was ready to toss the chameleon a hundred yards into the ocean when Charmy got in the way.

"Please, Mighty," the bee begged, "the last thing we need is for us to be down a man, especially against Sonic and his friends."

Mighty sighed. He knew Charmy was right, he just hated to admit it. Instead, he flipped Espio above his head and ran towards the hill again. Vector and Charmy followed. A minute later, Espio crashed down to the ground. He was slow to get up, but soon joined his friends at the door entrance.

"Well, here we go," Mighty growled, ready to smash the house to pieces.

"Wait," Charmy asked. "Shouldn't we at least make sure they're not doing anything embarrassing?"

"Jeez, are you this person's personal bodyguard or something, Charm?" Mighty said, exasperated. "Fine."

He knocked once.

"Okay, they're not busy," he said quickly, then immediately he smashed the door open. A small brown fox jumped up, surprised.

"Alright, foxy boy," Mighty yelled, "what do you know about Sonic the Hedgehog? Where is he?"

"I…I…" the fox stammered, then he dashed off.

"I'll get him," Vector said, and he raced off after the fox. Vector was faster, but the fox had the jump start. When the fox turned a corner, Vector followed, but saw an empty garage instead. It was too quiet for comfort. Then, to his horror, one of the machines, a blue one, rose high above him. A blue one. It appeared to be a plane, until he saw it had legs. It was some kind of mech machine.

"Uh, guys?" Vector muttered.

The fox rose his head above the machine and started firing a small cannon. As fast as he was, Vector knew he needed some backup. He ran screaming back into the living room with Mighty and the others.

"Guys!" he yelled. "There's this big machine thing, come on!"

The confused group followed the crocodile into the garage. The machine was gone, and so was the fox.

"Yeah," Mighty said sarcastically, "there's a whole lot of big machine things." Then, he grabbed Vector by the throat. "But no fox! Where the hell is the fox?"

Vector had no air to speak.

"Hey, look at this!" Charmy squeaked from across the room. Mighty relinquished his grasp on Vector and walked over.

It was a note. For Sonic.

"Sonic-

Big invited me to his hut for some breakfast today. You can come too, if you'd like. I'll be over there at 9:30. We can talk about your situation, too, and what's going on. See you there.

Tails

P.S. Amy can come to, if you'd like. And you might not want to head back to your apartment for a while."

Mighty grinned as the group walked outside.

"Well, there you go," he said. "I told you our first house would give us a lead."

"But we don't know who this Big person is," Espio responded.

"Hmm…" Mighty wondered. "You're right."

As if on cue, a large purple cat rose from beside a nearby pond with a bucket of fish and a fishing rod. The cat trotted back into the forest they just came out of.

"That one big enough for you?" Vector asked.

Big had about twenty minutes before Tails and Sonic were going to show up for breakfast, so he ran as fast as his little stubby legs would take him. Froggy was back home coking the sausage and making the orange juice. Big was going to get the fish and pancakes. If they had time, they would cook up some eggs as well. Tails had said there was something important he and Sonic had to talk about. Big didn't want to get involved, but he wanted to make them welcome.

When he got home, Froggy was struggling to open the package of sausage.

"Oh, Froggy!" Big cried. "They're going to be here soon! We need to hurry!"

As Big helped his amphibian friend with the sausage, he heard a single knock at his door. Before Big could even turn around, the door was smashed open. When the dust had settled, a chameleon, a bee, a crocodile, and an armadillo had surrounded him.

"Have room for a couple more guests?" the armadillo asked. "Don't worry, we don't take up too much space." Even a guy like Big knew this was trouble. But even his girth couldn't take on all four of them. Scrambling for a solution, he got out one more sentence before they knocked him out.

"I…I made pancakes."

Chapter 6

The Best is Bested

Okay, Knuckles thought. Don't panic. It's okay. You're already dead, kind of, so you can't die again, right? Right?

"Yes, you can," said a voice in his head. It was not his own.

"Crystal?!?" he said to himself. "How…what are you doing?"

"Mental telepathy. Long story. You can die again. Just try the Chaos Control."

"Wait…" He had heard that before. "I can't do that, only Sonic and Shadow can."

"It's not exactly the same," explained Crystal. "It's another advantage of the Master Emerald. It's one of the powers you receive when you are in your Chaotix form."

Of course, now Knuckles remembered. His Chaotix form was equivalent to Sonic's Super form, except he turned green and used the Master Emerald. But…

"I can only use Chaotix when I have the Master Emerald," he retaliated, still slowly drifting downward. "It's still on Earth."

"But you can utilize some of its power now. Just try it, quickly, before the void becomes too deep."

"Okay."

Knuckles took a deep breath and concentrated. Get me away from here, he thought. Just get back to a safe haven. Get back on the platform. And, like Crystal predicted, he saw green sparks fizzle in front of his eyes. In a few seconds, he found himself back on a glowing platform, though he did not know which one.

"All right, Crystal, how do I do this telekinesis thing?" Knuckles asked to no one in particular.

Nothing. Where was she?

"Crystal?"

"Knuckles? Did you make it?" Crystal said in his mind.

"Yeah, so how do I do the telekinesis thing?"

"Just think the words and I will hear them."

Of course. Everything in this place involved a simple thought.

"Okay, so how could you have heard me when I just said the words before?" Knuckles "asked" Crystal.

"Trade secret," she responded. "So where are you?"

"I was hoping you knew," Knuckles responded.

He heard Crystal sigh.

"Very well. You're on your own for a bit unless you come across something noteworthy."

Now it was Knuckles' turn to sigh. He was hoping his newfound telekinesis could help him in some way, but to no avail. Luckily, he still had the ability to transport. So, he gave the obvious a shot, even know he figured it wouldn't work.

Get me to the center of this maze. Get me to the end.

Naturally, it didn't work. The labyrinth wouldn't be a big deal to beat if you could just teleport to the end. It was time to do a bit of good old fashioned exploring. Good for him, though, because exploring was what had made him famous back on Earth.

He had walked over to his starship/hovercraft when he heard the crackle of a radio. Groaning, he turned it off. His work here was done. And now, he was that much closer to having all the money he needed to complete his mission. The mission he had been striving to accomplish for five years. Another mission like this with a huge payoff would be enough. He hated to do it this way, he wanted to do it the noble way, but the criminal was just too crafty and always at least six steps ahead.

A buzzing sound shook his radio. This meant there was an emergency. He sighed and flipped the radio on.

"Is this Kasille? Over."

"Roger. What's the situation, over?"

"The convict escaped. A breakout. We need your assistance. It will involve a significant pay increase. Over."

That was all he needed to hear.

"Roger. Where was their last sight? Over."

"We have just received word from a police liner that the convict and his accomplice, a pink one of the same species, evaded them and are approaching the Mystic Ruins dock quickly on some kind of jet ski. Need backup immediately. Over."

"Gotcha. I'm on my way, over and out."

With that he flipped off his radio and got into his hovercraft. He warmed up the engines and slowly pushed his throttle forward. Blade Kasille was on the hunt again.

Whoever those creeps were they were definitely going to give him trouble later.

Tails zoomed off in the Cyclone. That was a narrow escape. Had he lost a single step, that crocodile thing would have caught him. He was fast. Not as fast as Sonic, but pretty damn fast altogether.

Wait, Sonic!

The only reason ANYONE had ever come after him was because of Sonic. And he knew Sonic was having legal problems again. Were these guys after him because of that? He had to find Sonic.

He had left a note back at the workshop to meet with Big. Maybe Sonic had seen it by now. Or…

Oh no. If those guys had seen the note, they could ambush Sonic if he went to Big's hut.

Tails morphed the Cyclone into Speed Jet mode. It sprouted four wings and a larger jet space. At top speed, he zoomed off to the forest.

As he approached the forest where the hut was, Tails was about to press the button so he could land when a cannon blast whizzed just past his plane. He looked up to see a large spacecraft of some sort firing at him. "Okay," Tails said to himself, "you wanna take on the best ace pilot in the galaxy? Not even Fox McCloud has anything on this fox."

The person controlling the ship seemed to expect Tails to come at him. So he didn't. He hung back and fired a couple lasers from afar. It was a simple sniping match for a while. The spaceship, which was probably four times as big as Tails' plane, took more shots, but since this form of the plane wasn't designed to take too many hits, the Cyclone's shield was probably lower. Time to make a change, Tails thought.

Trying out a new form, he morphed the Cyclone into a bulky plane with two wings and a lot of shield power. He sacrificed some serious speed with this form, but since it didn't appear that he'd be moving too much anyway.

The two crafts traded blows for a while until the larger one stopped firing. Then, as Tails had seen one too many times in sci-fi movies, three smaller, but sizeable, fighters shot out from the bottom of the huge spaceship. Tails knew he couldn't handle all three of them and dodge the spaceship's fire. But he had to try. For Sonic's sake.

He needed mobility now, but he knew the pilots weren't going to sit there and let him morph again. He'd have to make do with what he had to work with. After taking a couple hits, he finally dished out enough laser shots to knock the fighters away for a while. It gave him just enough time to transform back into…

He'd never see exactly how his jet morph would do against the fighters. Because he had forgotten about the giant spaceship. He never saw the giant cannon appear from it, reminiscent of the Egg Carrier. He never saw the giant green beam of light come streaking towards him, knocking out all of his shield and both of his wings. He never saw his ship come careening down into the woods.

Partly because he had been knocked from the plane and already unconscious before he even hit the ground.

"Nice shooting, Charmy," Espio chuckled into his intercom from the fighter jet.

"Yeah," Vector joked, "we didn't think you'd be able to hit the buttons."

"Very funny," Charmy grumbled. "But I gotta admit, the voice controls you rigged up for this baby rock out loud, Es."

Even Mighty was impressed.

"Nice job Es. Now let's get back down to the ground. I'm sure our blue friend will be coming to visit soon. And there won't be any more unexpected guests."

Chapter 7

Triple Ambush

"Alright," Sonic yelled to Amy as they approached the dock near the Mystic Ruins. "We're coming in." He slowed the wave runner down so he could ride it on top of the wooden dock. Once stopped, he pulled Amy off her seat. It was then that Sonic realized Amy wasn't wearing her regular red dress, which Sonic had grown to despise in the past few years. Instead, she had thrown on a white tank top, red vest, and Capri jeans with ripped ends. Sonic couldn't believe it, but she actually looked really nice. Cute, even. But he quickly shook the thought from his mind. He wanted a girl, all right, but Amy? No way, no how.

"Sonic?"

"Oh, sorry," he responded, coming back to reality. "Let's see how Tails is doing. Wonder if he's got some eats for us."

But when they got to the workshop, Tails wasn't there. As they explored the house, Sonic noticed something interesting in the garage-the Cyclone was missing. He must be out for a flight, he thought.

"Sonic, check this out!" Amy shouted from the other end of the house. The two met as each had started walking towards the other. "I found this on the coffee table," she explained, handing a piece of paper to Sonic. It was a note:

"Sonic-

Big invited me to his hut for some breakfast today. You can come too, if you'd like. I'll be over there at 9:30. We can talk about your situation, too, and what's going on. See you there.

Tails

P.S. Amy can come to, if you'd like. And you might not want to head back to your apartment for a while."

"I wonder what he means by "if you'd like." Of course I'd like to come," Amy wondered aloud. Sonic couldn't help but chuckle at Amy's naïve attitude.

"What's so funny?" she asked almost instantly.

"Wha? Oh nothing," Sonic lied. "Just laughing at a joke this note reminded me of."

"Uh huh," Amy responded, completely unconvinced. "So let's get to Big's. I'm starving!"

"It would take too long to go by foot," Sonic said, knowing that he could get there in a minute but it would take Amy about a half hour. "So let's borrow one of Tails' ships."

"Are you sure?" Amy asked. "I could run, it wouldn't take too long. Besides, you're not exactly an ace pilot."

"You kiddin'?" Sonic replied. "I've got the highest score in the flying game back at the CC Arcade. Plus, Tails owes me one, anyway." With that, Sonic chose what he thought was the coolest looking ride-a black plane with a silver streak across it-and hopped in. Amy reluctantly followed, and Sonic took off, the garage door automatically opening.

"Now let's see the max on this thing," Sonic said to himself as he shoved the throttle forward. The plane took off already at terminal velocity. Amy covered her head in fright.

That was Sonic for you, she thought. Even when he wasn't on the ground, there was no stopping his need for speed.

This was fun, Knuckles thought.

In just a half hour, he had tapped into Chaotix power, used mental telepathy, explored caves deeper and longer than any he had seen on Earth, evaded numerous traps, and beaten up enemies more skilled than any he had ever fought. He was loving it! He might just stay in this dimension forever just for the challenge. But he knew no one else would guard the Master Emerald while he was gone and he had to get back.

His trip was just about to get harder, though.

There was another door in front of him. No problem. Every one meant another new trap or gimmick. He wondered what new challenge it could bring.

The next room brought nothing. No walls, no floors, no ceilings, no nothing. Except a whole lot of enemies. Now this was more like it-a huge room with a whole lot of baddies to whoop up on. But when he ran ahead to beat them down, he slammed into nothing. There was nothing there, but it hurt like hell.

"Okay, what was that?" he asked, hoping that Crystal would hear him. She did.

"This room is full of invisible walls. It's the room that usually knocks out challengers to the labyrinth. The walls always change pattern, so no one knows the definite layout of the room."

"Wait, if they get stuck, how are they knocked out?"

Crystal was silent. Then, "I don't know."

"Don't lie, Crystal. What happens?"

She sighed.

"You only have two hours to get through the cave."

"A time limit?!?" Knuckles didn't like this. He never liked time restraints.

"In two hours, if you're not out of the labyrinth, you are sent to heaven for good. You won't have another chance to get out."

"And you didn't tell me this because…"

Crystal didn't speak.

"Crystal, I know you can hear me!"

Still no answer.

"Fine. Be like that if you want. I don't need your help to get out of here. I'm the best explorer in the universe, I could get out of here with my eyes closed." With that, Knuckles went about wandering through the room of invisible walls, with possibly his greatest ally out of the picture.

Sonic landed the plane in the middle of the forest. "Let's go! I'm sure Big has some pancakes on the griddle. I love pancakes! Hope he's got jelly."

Amy staggered out of the plane. "I…will…NEVER…fly…again," she managed to stammer. "At least…not…with you."

Sonic wasn't listening. He was already dashing off to Big's hut. When Sonic was hungry, nothing got in his way, not even a dangerous forest full of hanging vines and streams. Amy trudged on behind until she saw something that caught her eye.

"Sonic!" she yelled. "Take a look at this! It looks like Tails' plane!" But Sonic couldn't hear her. It wouldn't matter anyway, because she didn't say another word. Something hit her hard on the head, knocking her unconscious.

Sonic thought he heard Amy yell, but there was no time. There was breakfast to be had. He waltzed right into Big's suspiciously open door.

"Yo Catman," Sonic shouted, "where's Tails? I'm starving!"

"No catman here," hissed a voice from behind him. Sonic immediately whirled around to face what appeared to be a crocodile.

"Just a couple of reptiles," said another voice behind him-again. Sonic turned to face a chameleon.

"An insect," said a bee floating above his head.

"And two rodents." An armadillo stepped from the shadows. "And the armadillo here to get some vengeance."

"What the hell are you…" Sonic began, then remembered. "Bounty hunters!"

"No, we don't hunt for cash," said the armadillo again, approaching Sonic. Now that he thought of it, he looked really similar to himself, Sonic thought. Except he was red and black instead of blue. Kinda reminded him of Shadow.

"We just hunt for the thrill-and the revenge." The armadillo looked much angrier than the others.

"What is your deal?"

"We're here for your hide, in exchange for the hide of our friend that you took from us."

Considering the crowd he was in, Sonic could take a wild guess at who that "friend" was.

"The hide of our friend," the armadillo finished, "Knuckles the Echidna."

Chapter 8

True Colors

This was not good, one half of Sonic thought.

Well duh, the other half said, you're surrounded and these guys probably have Amy, Big, and Tails, too. So what's the plan, smart one?

Neither side had an answer to that. The only thing he could think of was fight. It might be easier to run, but these guys had been a step ahead the whole way so far, and he expected that they had already taken his great speed into consideration and made some plan or trap for it. But four on one wasn't great odds, even for Sonic. These guys looked tougher than any goon Eggman had ever thrown at him. It was like fighting four versions of Shadow or that bounty hunter from Station Square.

"Listen," Sonic began to explain, but the armadillo wouldn't hear of it.

"No, hedgehog, you listen. The police gave all the information to us back on Carnival Island. We know all about you and the case. We know you shot him in the back and the head on Angel Island. We know you threw the body off Red Mountain. We know about your written confession you turned in in prison. We know it all. We know more about it than you do."

"Wait," Sonic said. This time, the armadillo listened. "I have no clue what you are talking about. I haven't been to Red Mountain in a year. I haven't been on Floating Island in two. And I never, never turned in any confession or broke down in interrogation or any of that crap. Whoever gave you that info was wrong."

The armadillo nodded.

"For a killer, you sure are a terrible liar. We even have a copy of the confession here. Espio?" The chameleon approached. Sonic backed off, worried there was some ambush coming, but instead, he handed him a sheet of paper from a copy machine or fax or something. In it, in cursive handwriting, was a statement.

"I, Sonic the Hedgehog, confess to the murder of Knuckles the Echidna and plead guilty to all charges brought against me, including murder of the first degree and terrorist attacks of the first degree. I understand that this can be used as irrefutable evidence that can and will be used against me on trial in a court of law.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sunday, July 11, 2004"

Sonic froze on the spot. It was all in his handwriting, he admitted it. But he never remembered writing it at all. He never remembered writing anything in prison. Had someone drugged him and had him do it while he wasn't himself?

"Where…did…you…get…this?" he stammered. It was the best he could get out. No snappy comeback or remark. He was all out.

"Our mysterious contact faxed it to us. They also told us that you would be on Earth around the Mystic Ruins, so we have the utmost trust in him." The armadillo approached Sonic, the grin on his face disappearing. "If you want, try and escape. Just try to run out of here. I dare you."

So Sonic was right, they were ready for his speed. He prepared to fight.

"Oh, so taking the fight and not the flight?" the armadillo said, mock surprise in his voice. "Very well. Boys?"

But before a brawl could break out, which would probably end up being a massacre anyway, a red flash cut in between them. A young man with a glowing red sword appeared in front of Sonic, almost protecting him. Although the others didn't know what was going on, Sonic recognized him as the bounty hunter back at Station Square.

The boy spoke in a harsh voice. "Alright, you four pansies kindly get out of here before I have to get postal on you. No one touches Sonic but me."

"What the…" Sonic stuttered, bewildered.

"Don't think I'm doing you some kind of favor, rodent," the bounty hunter growled. "Once I'm done with these punks, you're coming with me."

"Figures," Sonic murmured. Just when he thought he had caught a break, he realized he had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire-more like out of a beating and into prison again.

The crocodile regained his composure first.

"So who are you, his fairy godmother or something?" he chuckled, but you could hear the fear in his voice.

"No, but it is my job to handle this guy, unlike you inexperienced hunters with your pathetic little traps. Clever, by the way, that little spaceship planted outside on autopilot. Amusing. It took me a whole fifteen seconds to destroy it. Hope you weren't planning on heading back to Carnival Island anytime soon."

The chameleon stood, jaw dropped. The bee spoke. "How'd you know we were from there?"

"First off, because you just told me. Second, you were crowing at the top of your lungs about it while I was over in the corner. And third, I saw a quick glimpse of you guys and looked up your file on the computer in my car. I know more about you than you do. The armadillo is Mighty, the chameleon is Espio, the reptile is Vector, and you, the bumblebee, are Charmy, probably the smartest guy here, unfortunately. You're hear to avenge the death of your friend Knuckles and want to destroy Sonic for murdering him. Well, I have to say no. The hedgehog is coming with me. I need this a lot more than you and your little grudge do. Stand aside and maybe I won't have to kill you."

"For someone who's outnumbered four to one," Mighty came back, "you sure are confident."

"Yeah," the bounty hunter said with fake fear, "four on one really is unfair in my favor. I've never lost a fight, and I don't plan on starting now."

Mighty charged and threw numerous punches, but the bounty hunter dodged them all like it was nothing. Then, with a quick right hook, the warrior had sent Mighty through the wall of the hut and outside. Then, the armadillo heard something rev up behind him. It was…

"Dear God," muttered Mighty.

Hearing the noise, Espio blurted out, "I thought you destroyed our ship!"

"I did," grinned the bounty hunter. "But I never said anything about my little ship."

"AAAAAHHHH!" screamed Mighty as he streaked back into the house. Less than a second later, a huge black hover car smashed through whatever remained of the wall and continued to chase Mighty, who it seemed to have honed in on. The bounty hunter jumped high over the car and dashed outside. Sonic did the same, but ran out the back way instead. He didn't want to be caught again. But then he remembered Tails, Big, and Amy. They were probably still inside the house. Thinking quickly, he blazed back into the house at top speed, found Mighty, and rammed into him, full force. The armadillo flew out of the house a second time, and the car followed him. With unprecedented speed, Sonic went all through the house, found his three friends, untied them, and ordered them to get out immediately. Then, Sonic ran back outside and made a beeline the center

He knew that he, Big, Tails, and Amy might have a shot at beating the crew from Carnival Island, but the presence of that bounty hunter scared him. That guy was more dangerous than that whole gang combined-and that was saying a lot. He didn't want to risk his chances or the safety of his friends. He could only hope that the others escaped in time.

But when he got to the point where he landed his plane, he found it destroyed. Cut to pieces and scattered across the land. No doubt the work of that bounty hunter again. Sonic shouted a curse and ran off to the dock. And when he got there, he saw the same damage done to his wave runner. This was getting out of hand. This caused a lot of trouble. Tails, Amy, and Big probably went to the plane again, without knowing it was out of commission, and might get caught by either the bounty hunter or the Carnival Island gang. But if he went back, he might get caught. But again, he couldn't risk the safety of his friends.

Like a blue beam of light, he ran back through the forest, bobbed and weaved through the barrage of trees, and got back to the plane. No Tails. No Amy. No Big.

Just the bounty hunter. Sword drawn and prepared for battle.

Sonic groaned. Why did he have to be so thoughtful of others?

Chapter 9

Mystic Minatour

Invisible room. Great. Knuckles had already spent a good hour and a half on the room. He had one hour left to get to the end of the labyrinth. And from what he could see, he wasn't even halfway through the invisible room yet.

Every time he charged to get on a guard marching through the room, he'd slam into a wall. He knew he never could finish it in time. He'd be stuck in this cursed place forever, and the Master Emerald would be out in the open for the taking. And whoever had brought him to this place would be free to kill again.

Wait, he had an idea. (Crystal,) he thought. (Is there a Chaotix power that can distinguish walls? Kinda like a reverse x-ray vision?)

(No,) she said back almost immediately.

(Are you sure?)

(Yes. The Chaotix powers are limited to a Chaotix form, teleportation, and telekinetic speech. I'm sorry, but it's up to your hunting skills.)

(Yeah. Thanks anyway.) Knuckles concentrated on the situation at hand. There had to be some way, some gimmick to get him through.

Of course. He could climb. He could climb his way around the walls. After feeling his way to the nearest wall, he dug his claws into the wall and began to scale towards…

"EEEEARRRRRH!"

Naturally. When life gives you lemons, they're probably electrified. The jolt sent Knuckles flying off the wall and into another one. A similar sound to the one above followed before he collapsed to the ground. He was barely conscious now. Quick, man, think of a plan. Time's running out. What other way can you get out of here.

"Yes!" he coughed. He flipped chest forward to the ground and jammed his ear to the ground. Nothing. No electric thing, not too many enemies. He jumped high in the air and planted his feet to the ceiling. Just before he bounced downward, he shoved his fists forward and got ready to dig. When he got to the ground, he burrowed faster than ever. In less than a second, he was underground. In his domain. Remembering which direction the exit of the room was, he dug. Digging, digging, digging. There's an enemy. Slash, boom, it's gone. No one could beat him beneath ground. Digging, digging, digging. Land mine. Had he kept going above ground, he'd be dead. Luckily, he knew how to do this, too. Within three seconds, the bomb was disabled. Digging, digging, digging. Another set of enemies, gone in a flash. Digging, digging, digging…

A crack. Beneath him. The ground was giving out. But he was already at the lowest point of the ground. How could the earth give out…

The floor disappeared beneath him. Knuckles went down with it. He hit another level beneath him with a thud. God, it felt like his back had split in two. And the ground continued to shake. He braced himself to fall again. But the fall never came. Was it some kind of otherworldly earthquake?

When he looked up, he saw the cause of the shaking. It wasn't an earthquake. Just a whole lot deadlier. Some kind of crossbreed between a bull, a horse, a man, and an eagle-with four arms as well. Knuckles had heard stories about this from his great-great grandfather (echidnas of his type lived longer, so Knuckles even knew his great-great-great grandfather very well). It was the Minatour. But obviously not the same one that was slain in Greek mythology. No, it must have been Hell's version of it, a sick, twisted creation straight from Satan's crazy mind. And it probably had some other surprises as well.

It was the toughest fight of Knuckles' life (or afterlife? He didn't know what it could be called yet). He had about twenty minutes to beat it and reach the final point of the maze (which couldn't be too much further-the Minatour signaled the end of the labyrinth in Greek legend). Lose and he would be stuck in this afterlife forever.

You had to feel sorry for the Minatour.

Tails was carrying Amy by the wrists as he flew. Big waddled along as fast as he could. For a big guy, he sure could run when he needed to.

"Sonic landed the plane right near that old shrine," Amy explained as the wind rushed past her pink quills. "It's not completely totaled, so you should be able to fly us out of here."

"Yeah," Tails said halfheartedly. His confidence in his flying and combat skills had taken a severe beating since he had been shot down by the gang. He was even starting to doubt his ability to fly simple missions like this one. Of course, he couldn't tell Amy or Big that. After all, who would trust someone who couldn't trust himself?

"Hey Tails," Big panted as he ran behind the two, "remember when we were escaping from Eggman's flying base and I flew your ship and crashed it by my house?"

"Fondly," Tails said through gritted teeth. Tails had flown Amy off the Egg Carrier, while Big had hijacked the Tornado 2 (aka the Cyclone) and, having no previous flying experience at all, crashed it by his hut. An airplane shaped crater still remained in Big's front yard. If it hadn't been covered in rubble by now.

"Just turn right here and we should be there," Amy told Tails from below.

"What are you, some kind of backseat driver or something?" Tails said sarcastically.

"No, just a below seat one."

Tails laughed a bit, though it wasn't very funny. But that was the thing with friends-the stupidest and lamest jokes are still a bit funny. Amy and Tails had always been best friends, and even when Sonic was in a bad mood and turned her away, Tails would always be there to back her up. And Tails needed someone to talk to other than Sonic, who he knew was his friend, but he treated like his parent.

"Here we go," Amy told Tails. "Take me down and follow me."

Tails lowered Amy to the ground and the two dashed ahead, Amy running and Tails using his tails to propel him forward. Big was falling behind, but he didn't have to go far to catch up. Because Amy and Tails had stopped dead in their tracks to witness a spectacle and a horror all in one.

Right in front of them, Sonic and the bounty hunter had begun to duke it out in the green forest shrine.

The last time Knuckles checked, the Minatour couldn't conjure fire.

Apparently, he needed to check another history book, because this one could. And he wasted no time in sending Knuckles running from fireballs, geysers exploding from the ground, and spit flame.

Knuckles had to get this guy to stop shooting. Sooner or later, he must run out of power to do that, right?

(Wrong,) Crystal told him in his head. (He has unlimited power.)

(Jeez,) Knuckles responded. (Does he have any weakness at all?)

(If he does, I have never found it.)

Man, Crystal was being a huge help.

(How much time do I have left?) Knuckles thought as he slid under another stream of flame.

(Approximately fifteen minutes,) Crystal replied after a second of thought.

(Thanks for the update. See ya.) With that, Knuckles tried digging underground. He should be able to get closer to the Minatour that way. But just as he was under, he felt something hot behind him. A fireball chasing him in his own tunnel. As the fastest digger on earth, he was just able to outrun the ball of flame. When he finally popped up, the Minatour stood above him. In one swift motion, he grabbed the weary echidna in one arm and began to beat him with the other three. After a few minutes, the Minatour got board and tossed Knuckles across the room. The echidna heard a cracking sound as he slammed into the wall and he knew immediately that he had broken his right leg. Struggling to keep the pain from his face, he turned to the Minatour on his hands and feet. If only he had the Master Emerald with him, he could go into his Chaotix form and heal his wound. But he had limited Chaotix powers without the Emerald and could not do this. Just teleport and talk to Crystal.

Wait-yes! Since he couldn't run, he could teleport around the room to attack the Minatour. It was risky, because if he accidentally landed on the leg, he was done for-he couldn't take any more pain like that. But he needed to take the chance. He only had about thirteen minutes left before he was trapped here forever.

Warping around the Minatour seemed to confuse him. Every time he tossed a fireball at him, Knuckles was in another part of the room. To keep off the foot, Knuckles began to glide, allowing him to stay in the air when he teleported. Finally, when he saw the Minatour was dizzy, he zoomed in and began to pound him with his fists. Just as he knew the Minatour was going to counterattack, he warped away and landed a roundhouse kick (with the left leg) to the back of the beast's head. Then, Knuckles witnessed something he never thought he'd see. The Minatour fell.

Was this it? Was this the monster he'd heard so much about, on the ground after a simple kick. No, it was too weak. There had to be some catch.

There was. The Minatour rose again, his eyes black and angry, growling and moaning. Now both of his hands held fireballs, which he shot on opposite sides of the room. The balls bounced around the room, careening off walls. Knuckles knew this was trouble. Teleporting might not be enough here. The Minatour kept pumping out fireballs, and soon the room was filled with fire ricocheting off everything except for the two combatants.

It was up to gliding now. Swimming through the river of fire in the air, he aimed for the Minatour. Apparently, the monster was fireproof, because every shot that hit him did nothing. It took a big swing at Knuckles with one of its arms, which Knuckles floated over. He quickly had to duck under an incoming fireball, then twirl around to dodge a punch by the Minatour. This was getting out of hand. He threw a single punch, then felt the sting of a fireball. Just more proof he couldn't do anything without being hit. The ball sent him to the ground again, luckily not on his bad leg. He teleported again, but was immediately hit by a fireball that was right where he wanted to be.

(Five minutes,) Crystal told him. Knuckles didn't respond. With that limited time left, he needed another plan and he needed it fast.

Chapter 10

I'm a Spy

"Ooh…" Mighty said, rubbing his head.

"Good, he's awake," said Espio.

"Thank God," Charmy muttered. "I thought we'd lost him."

"…Huh?…" Mighty groaned. "What's going on? Where's the hedgehog…?"

"Everyone got away," Vector responded, a little downcast. "That car distracted us long enough for them to escape?"

"Everyone?"

"Yep. The hedgehog, the swordsman, the hostages, everyone. We thought you were dead after that beating you took."

Mighty was instantly up.

"Man, I'm invincible! No one can kill me. I fear God and no one else!"

"Now that's the Mighty we know," Espio chuckled.

"Where'd the little rodents go?" he growled.

"That-a-way," Vector said, pointing in one direction. Anticipating Mighty's next move, Vector, Espio, and Charmy dashed ahead just as Mighty passed them. Charmy led the way to a forest shrine.

Where Sonic's friends were. Where they watched on as Sonic and the swordsman battled.

"Mr. President, this situation with Sonic the Hedgehog is getting critical. Our police force and even the military cannot find him, and even if they did they have almost no means of capturing him for a long enough period of time to have him go on trial."

"What is the situation with our test force?"

"We have heard nothing from Blade Kasille since 4:00 this morning. We do not know his status or location."

"Does anyone else know where this Sonic the Hedgehog is? Any readings at all?"

"The closest connection we had to his location was with Mr. Kasille."

"Damn. Any suggestions?"

"Well, there is the new member…"

"No. Never. You know the disaster that occurred when we last trusted her with a mission. We were two hours away from having the entire world conquered by some tyrannical maniac."

"With all due respect, Mr. President, that tyrannical maniac is now a well respected politician and has vowed to atone his sins and wipe out any and all crime."

"I'll bet. Even so, two hours! I could barely get up to New Jersey in a car in two hours. Still, I can't believe that hedgehog turned so quickly…"

"Sir?"

"Oh, sorry. Now, are there any other options for tracking Sonic down?"

"The best possible solution is with our new member."

"Are you absolutely positive? I want to keep her out of this at all costs."

"Negative, sir. The rest of the staff believes our best chance is with her."

"Fine. Bring her in."

The contact came out of the President's office and walked up to the "new member," smiling.

"Alright, Rouge, you're in."

The bat smiled, her fangs showing more than ever.

Five minutes. Just five minutes. In any other case, five minutes would be plenty of time for Knuckles to K.O. this creep, but with all the odds stacked against him-broken leg, room of bouncing fireballs-he was really pushing it. He still had the power of teleportation and telekinetic communicating with Crystal, but teleporting didn't help when every square inch was covered in flame and Crystal wasn't proving to be a huge help. There had to be some way to beat it. Some weakness. But he decided it was time to face the music. This thing had no weaknesses he could exploit. He'd simply have to overpower it.

"All right, you big oaf," Knuckles muttered, "time to meet your maker."

(Four min-)

(Please shut up,) Knuckles responded. (I'm trying to avoid death and being trapped in this place for all eternity, and I have no time to do it.)

Knuckles wouldn't hear from Crystal again.

It was time to play a bit of the defensive. He was hopping on one foot, but he still felt confident. With all the fireballs around him, he was forced to jump and bend around a lot of blasts. He had about no time to attack the Minatour itself. Didn't these things ever dissolve or anything? Then he noticed them getting smaller and smaller after every bounce off the wall, floor, or ceiling. If he could just wait it out a few more minutes, he'd have another minute to hammer the Minatour and reach the exit.

His theory worked. After two more minutes, all the fireballs were gone. A surprised and tired Minatour had nothing left in the tank. Knuckles vanished and reappeared just below the Minatour to perform an amazing sweep to compensate for his broken right leg. The Minatour fell, and would never get up-mainly because Knuckles transported above him and beat him down with fists of fury. After a minute of nonstop pounding, the Minatour began to glow. Almost instinctively, Knuckles teleported away to the opposite of the room. Good thing, too, because after a few seconds of bright glowing, the Minatour lit on fire. Knuckles took this opportunity to look around the room for an exit. A single slim hallway appeared. He wished himself to the entrance, then to the end. The second request was not fulfilled. He could not understand for a second, then realized the end of the hall was the exit. He'd have to hop the rest of the way-not good, considering he had less than a minute to get down it.

The only thing Knuckles could hope for was that he didn't have far to go.

Chapter 11

Payoff

Rouge waltzed into the President's room instead of knocking, which is what everyone else did. "You wanted to see me?" she asked.

"Yes, Rouge. Sit down," the President said sternly. Rouge did so, then flipped her hand to cool herself off.

"Wow, hot as hell today, ain't it Prez?" she asked casually. Anyone else wouldn't dare do this kind of thing, but Rouge knew she was irreplaceable. No one else could match her stealth abilities.

"Um…yes, it is. Rouge, I have to ask you something."

"You want me to get in on this Sonic the Hedgehog case, right?"

"Why yes, I do. How did you know?" the President asked, immediately realizing he sounded really stupid doing so.

"Wild guess. What do you want me to do?"

"Just track him. We already have a bounty hunter out for him, but I don't know if he can get the job done. Just get a lead, hunt him down, and keep him in one place long enough for us to get a squad in to catch him."

Rouge was sacrificing a lot for this. Sonic had saved the world so many times before it was hard to believe he had done any of those things. But he had killed Knuckles and even confessed to it, and she had to anything to avenge him. Of course, she wouldn't let anyone in the government know about her attraction to the echidna, or they'd start questioning her. And before you knew it, she'd be the one accused of murder.

"All right, Prez. How about the payout?"

"We're offering the bounty hunter $50,000."

"I want $60K."

"How about $50K and we don't tell anyone about your little robberies?"

Rouge knew that was a bluff. If the President revealed that one of their agents was a criminal, they'd suffer most. Plus, Rouge could escape from even the toughest prisons.

"In your dreams, Prez. $55K."

"$50K and a promotion to the head of a new squad we're forming."

Rouge's eyes lit up at the thought of her own band of thieves…er, agents.

"Fine. We have a deal."

How much longer did this tunnel go?

Knuckles was scrambling to the end of the long tunnel that hopefully meant the end of the labyrinth. He was starting to lose himself. Crystal had been babbling to him about something for the past minute or two, but he wasn't paying attention. All his mind was thinking was "Get to the end and get the hell out of here right now, you idiot. In one minute, you'll be trapped here for eternity.

It was like a sci-fi film where the hero runs out of a tunnel with a ball of flame coming behind him. Except Knuckles couldn't tell exactly how much time he had left. You never knew.

Finally, his arms and one leg exhausted, he collapsed.

Why can't I do this, Knuckles thought. I've never failed at anything before. It's that stupid leg! I've never broken anything before in my life! I just wish I hadn't broken it, I just wish it was fine again!

And it was.

Rouge flew high over the Mystic Ruins. If she knew Sonic, he'd probably be somewhere around here asking his fox boy friend for help. And if she remembered correctly, the workshop was right around here. This was going to be easier than she thought. Get in, get out, get her Knuckles a good funeral, and then settle down, get a good house and just chill for a bit. Naturally, she didn't expect herself to keep working with the government and the President. Once this was over, she'd make thousands, maybe millions, spilling government secrets, then return to her normal line of work-thievery. But it was time for one last adventure.

When she finally found the blue rodent, he was bouncing around near an airplane with what appeared to be that bounty hunter that she had heard so much about. She slowly lowered to the ground.

"All right, Blade," she yelled down to him. "Playtime's over, let the woman handle the job."

Blade looked completely offended by this, rightfully so.

"Hey batgirl, I'm on official government business and I saw him first."

"Guess what, I'm also from the government, and I'm the head of my own squad, so buzz off." She hadn't completely lied-once this Sonic deal was done with, she would be.

"I could care less. Move out of here or you're next."

"Now that's not the proper way to talk to a lady," Rouge taunted.

Blade smirked. "If you can be called a lady."

Rouge frowned and swooped down towards Blade. Of course this wasn't going to work-Blade had trained too well to be hit by something so flagrant as this. He easily sidestepped out of the way and turned to look at her and the…

"Wait, where's the hedgehog?!?" he shouted.

Rouge was rubbing her head from crashing into a nearby tree. "He probably got away because you were too busy getting in my way.

"Shaddup, I've been following him for a day now, and if you hadn't interfered, he'd probably be in custody now."

"Okay big man, back up your big mouth and let's fight."

Blade wagged a finger. "Oh no. I'm not going for that. That hedgehog and the reward are mine, and you aren't getting in my way any more."

And without another word, he was gone. In his nifty little hover car and speeding off into the forest.

Blade. So there was a name to the terror, Sonic thought as he escaped to Tails' workshop with the others. "Tails, my man, you got any more contraptions that can get us out of here?"

Tails thought for almost an eternity. "Yeah, there's one last plane in the garage. It's a bit smaller, but I'll bet we could fit us all in there."

"And Big?" Amy said incredulously.

The fox's face sagged.

"Speaking of which," Sonic wondered aloud, "where is the big oaf?"

The others turned and all saw that Big had fallen behind. Far behind.

"We can't wait for him anymore," Amy yelled ahead.

Sonic nodded. "He can take care of himself. Tails, get to the garage and get that plane revved up," he added, as he noticed they were nearly there.

"Hey guys, wait…up…!" Big panted, but there was no use. They were too far ahead. He stopped to catch his breath. Eventually, a black flying machine zipped up next to him, and someone jumped out of it. Big instantly recognized that guy with the sword.

The man used incredible strength to grab Big by the neck and hoist him high into the air.

"Okay tubby tabby," Blade growled, "where'd the rodent and his friends go."

Big instantly regretted it, but his gullible self blurted out the answer.

"They're goin' to Tails' workshop," he gasped. "To get a plane. That way," he added, pointing to the west.

Blade, satisfied with the response, hurled Big through a tree and sped off. Big was unconscious before he hit the tree.

Chapter 12

The Lowest Treason

As Sonic boarded Tails' plane, he realized it took him an almost Herculean effort to hop in. He was exhausted. He needed a break. The moment they took off, he dozed off.

Knuckles wasted a couple valuable seconds examining his leg. It was still swollen, to be sure, but he could walk on it. After realizing he had no time left, he ran on. Faster than he ever could before in his life. It was true-bones do heal stronger.

Just as he reached the light, the beam that should have teleported him out, someone got in his way. She was a beautiful woman with blue eyes and hair…

"Crystal?"

"I can't let you leave," she stammered.

"What the hell are you talking about?" he screamed. "Outta my way!"

Crystal shook her head. "I can't let you leave," she repeated.

"You're nuts!" he yelled. "Get out of my way or I'll throttle you!" He immediately realized that wouldn't do anything. Crystal was stuck here, even if she died again. So Knuckles teleported past her. But, of course, what he could do, she could as well. She morphed back in front of him.

"I can't let you leave," she said again.

"God!" He ran ahead, but the light was gone. He had run out of time. "You *&%$&$! moron!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. And then, he did something he-nor Crystal-could believe.

"Oh…my…God…" she whispered.

Knuckles only knew that he had a greenish glow emitting from him, and instantly he was gone.

Mighty, Espio, Vector, and Charmy stood there for a long time. Vector was the first to speak.

"What the hell just happened?"

"If I knew," Espio muttered, "I would have said something by now."

"What's the next move, Mighty?" Charmy asked.

Mighty was silent for a good few minutes. Then, he slowly let out his answer.

"I have no clue."

"Sonic!"

Wha…what?

"SONIC!"

"WHAT?!?"

"HELP!"

Sonic woke with a start. Amy was dangling from the side of the plane.

"Good Lord!" he shouted. He grabbed her by the hand and yanked her up. "What happened?"

"You fell asleep," Amy explained, "and since I had to sit on your lap because Tails only has two seats in this thing, I lost balance when Tails had to take a quick little move."

"And why did Tails have to do a quick little move?" Sonic asked incredulously.

"Because someone's shooting at us," Tails yelled back to the pair. "Hold on, we have to land."

Sonic just realized the hail of gunfire that was whizzing past his head. He ducked and just prayed Tails could land the plane safely. Staring at the floor for almost a half hour, he became more and more nervous, worried that the next shot would hit him, Amy, Tails, or the plane. But Tails kept his composure and managed to down the craft safely in a forest area. Sonic recognized it almost immediately as Prison Island, and it seemed like Tails and Amy knew it, too. Sonic had been taken here before when he had been mistaken for Shadow. Tails and Amy had broken him out before.

"Oh boy," Sonic groaned, getting out of the airplane quickly. "Prison Island revisited. You know I'm just so happy to be back here again."

"Hey, sue me," Tails retorted, shrugging his shoulders. "We needed to get out of the sky and this was the closest place. This plane doesn't have any weapons, it's strictly a transport vehicle."

"Fair enough," Sonic said, not satisfied with Tails' response whatsoever. "So let's get out of here. I'm sure they saw us come down here. Amy," he asked, turning to the pink hedgehog, "do you still have that G.U.N. access card?"

Amy's head fell and shook. "I left it at my condo," she sighed.

Wonderful, Sonic thought. Amy had bragged all summer about that card and kept showing it to Sonic, and now that they needed it, she didn't have it. That was Amy for you.

"Alright, is there another way in? We need to hide out for a bit."

Tails immediately perked up. "I think there's a backway," he suggested. "I can download the map from my computer at home."

"You kiddin'?" Sonic chuckled, even though he knew he wasn't. Tails was just brilliant with this kind of stuff. "Bring it on."

A few minutes and keyboard clicks later, Tails showed him the map. "There's a back entrance. Not really an official entrance, but it's a blind spot in their security. You wanna try it?"

"I do. But I don't want you to come with me."

"Why not?" Tails and Amy said together. Sonic immediately realized there was no point in trying to stop them. He'd be able to get in a lot easier if he didn't have two other people trailing him.

"Fine," he said, rolling his eyes. "C'mon."

Tails helped them in. The fox used a little laser he had in the plane to burn a small hole in the steel wall. Not big enough for the average human, but enough for a couple of woodland creatures like them. Sonic slipped through first, followed by Tails and Amy. They tried to find an empty cell or storage room, but nothing. Ducking past different security measures, Sonic immediately realized this was a bad idea-essentially heading into the belly of the beast to hide. There had to be…

"Freeze!"

Sonic instinctively prepared to run, but that would mean leaving Tails and Amy behind. Dammit! He knew he shouldn't have brought them in. He was surrounded, nowhere to go. Every officer had a gun pointed to his head. And pushing his way to the front was none other than…

"Well," Blade grinned, "we meet again, rodent."

Sonic said nothing. Blade continued. "I guess you finally caved in to the pressure. Too much stress can make you make stupid mistakes like this."

Sonic growled and gritted his teeth as one of the military men cuffed him. Then he hear something he never thought he'd ever hear ever.

"Good job, fox."

The voice was Blade's. It was intended for Tails. It was only then that Sonic realized he and Amy were the only ones being handcuffed-Tails was still free.

"Tails, what is this jerk talking about?" Sonic demanded.

The fox said nothing. The bounty hunter smiled. "Your friend has defected to the good guys. He decided to stop your little ring of evil."

"EVIL? Tails, is this guy serious?"

Tears welling up in his eyes, Tails made the faintest motion of a nod. "There's more to this than you-"

Sonic couldn't believe it.

"NO!!!!"

Sonic grabbed Amy and tossed her high in the air, then sprung forward towards Blade's drawn sword. Jutting his hands forward, he barely missed the blade. But his handcuffs had hit it. With his hands now free now that the cuffs had been separated, he caught Amy and quickly did a spin dash to cut her cuffs. All the while, the officers had no clue what to do. Blade was screaming at them to fire, but the troops just stood in amazement. They didn't begin to fire until Sonic was running at top speed, Amy in his arms. By then, it was too late. Blade chased them as well, but he had no chance of catching up. Sonic looked back at Tails, his former friend.

"I'll be back for you, traitor," he muttered under his breath, too quiet for even Amy to hear.

Chapter 13

Mental Breakdown

The sky was blurry for a bit. Then, Knuckles could make out a blue sky. Only a few cumulus clouds were scattered across the blueness. He started to get up, then…

"OW!"

It was his leg.

It was broken again.

How did that happen?

Then, he realized it. He was home at last.

Which also meant, probably, that everything that happened in Dimension 8.75 never really happened. Except for the fact that the next time he died, it was for real. Which also meant his leg was still broken.

"But shouldn't it be healed then?" Knuckles thought. If nothing from 8.75 really happened, then why did his leg still hurt if it happened then? Maybe it was natural stuff. You can break your leg on Earth, but you can't heal a leg mentally in real life. "Ugh…" he moaned. All this deduction was hurting his head. Let's just go Chaotix and heal this thing, he thought. And he did. Strangely, he felt like he had done this before. But he didn't remember doing anything like it. Whatever. In a second, he was Chaotix again, and his leg was healed. He quickly powered down. No point in wasting energy. He had to find out who "killed" him and where they were.

He didn't have to look far.

The moment he took off for Capital City, he saw helicopters swirling around. He had to lie low. If his death was such a big deal, seeing the dead alive was going to be trouble. Knuckles lowered himself to the ground slowly. He saw a flashing neon sign near a building that said it all.

On it was the city's most wanted.

The first person it listed was Sonic the Hedgehog.

Blade stood there for a long time, the fox and the troops behind him. He couldn't believe it. He had him cornered. No way out. And he pulled yet another Houdini act.

"Dammit," he muttered under his breath.

"What's the matter?" a familiar female voice said from above. "Even with your little pals, you're nothing."

It was the batgirl.

"You…" he growled.

"I think it's my turn," she said cockily

"Oh no," he told her. "This is my job."

"Not anymore," she sassed back. "Take a look at this thing." She handed a sheet of paper to Blade. Most of it was specifics, but what stood out were these parts:

"Section 5-3: The control of Squad 65B, currently led by unofficial bounty hunter Blade Kasille of unknown heritage, will be handed over to Rouge the Bat, former government spy and operative. This change is to take place immediately following certain aforementioned world events."

"Section 5-6: Previously mentioned bounty hunter Blade Kasille will be taken off of his current case, the capture of Capital City's most wanted, Sonic the Hedgehog, and its second most wanted, Amy Rose. If Mr. Kasille interferes with government efforts to capture Sonic or Ms. Rose anytime after this statement is issued, he will face penalty of law with a sentence of up to 10 years in prison."

Signed by the President himself.

Blade couldn't believe it.

"No…" he stammered. "No…no…no…"

"But yes," Rouge smirked with that devilish grin that showed her fangs. "Your group belongs to me, and you are out of a job. So if you could be so kind as to get out of my way, there's a rodent to catch. Come on, boys," she called to the assembled squad of troops. She flew ahead, leading the group of about thirty five down the hallway Sonic had just recently exited.

Blade knew the troops would never catch Sonic here.

"No.." he muttered again.

"NO!!!!!"

He was so close. If he just held on to the hedgehog, he would be able to turn him in, get his money, and never fight again. Now it would take ten jobs to make up for the one he just screwed up.

"NOOOOOOO!!!!!!"

Tails tried to comfort him.

"There's still a chance, if we pretend we never read the statement…"

Blade slowly turned towards him.

"I will NOT," he growled, "turn into a low-life murderer like your friends."

Tails was infuriated. "Sonic and Amy didn't kill anyone, and you know it!"

"If I knew it," Blade countered, "would I have spent the last few days trying to arrest them for their charges?"

"Sonic," Tails repeated, "is not a killer. He saved this planet twice. Why would he try to kill people on it now?"

"Why does anyone try to kill anyone else?!?" Blade screamed. "Vengeance? Not always! How about the thrill of the moment? Maybe your little thrill-seeker friend needed another fun little stunt to pull!"

Tails was about to respond when he stopped. Was Blade right? It was possible. Sonic was known to do crazy stuff, but this crazy?

"No way."

"You believe it!" Blade nearly laughed.

"No, I don't!"

"You paused! You were thinking about it! You know your friend did all this for the fun of it! And he dragged his little girlfriend into it, too! If you truly believed he was not a killer, or a terrorist, you would have instantly talked back, but you had to think a minute, didn't you?"

Tails said nothing, tears beginning to well up in his eyes.

"DIDN'T YOU?!?!?!?"

"SHUT UP!" Tails shouted back, now crying.

"Why did you help me catch him then?" Blade yelled. "It obviously wasn't because you cared for him, was it?"

"SHUT UP!" Tails repeated.

"Admit it! You know your friend is a murderer!"

"SHUT UP!" Tails ran out of the base, and seconds later was in his plane, flying back to the Mystic Ruins.

When Tails had left, Blade jammed his sword into the ground, knelt down, and leaned on the edge of it.

"If I'm to continue with my plan," Blade said to himself, "I have to think of some other way to keep up this mission. This is a big breakthrough, and if I finish it, I'll knock three or four years off hunting and add three or four years to our relationship. I have to get Cassie back, however I can."

He dashed off to his hovercar to make an interplanetary message. It was going to take a genius to think something like this up. And luckily, he had a friend back on Morphos who fit the bill nicely.

Chapter 14

Newfound Trust

Evading security measures, dashing out of the base, and running up walls was almost automatic for Sonic in this situation. It was like his body was on autopilot. Sonic wasn't even thinking about it, and he was pulling off these moves. His mental focus was on what had just happened.

"Why?" he thought, nearly crying. "Why, why, why, why, why, why…?" Tails was his best friend. How could he have sold him out like that? How, how, how, how, how, how…?

Then, he thought of the bigger picture as he blasted through a security robot that happened to be in his way. Knuckles was obviously dead, because of him, according to conventional wisdom. Rouge was working for the government again, and because of her close relationship with Knuckles, she probably would try to take him out before he could ask her for help. He really wished Shadow were around, had survived the Space Colony, but there had been no news about him ever since then, so he had to assume he, too, was dead. Tails had just betrayed him. Big was there, but he probably wouldn't be of any help whatsoever-in fact, Sonic had no clue what was going on with him after they had left the ruins. If he got left behind with the bounty hunter, Blade, there was a good chance that he was dead as well. There was the Gamma robot that had apparently saved Amy on the Egg Carrier, but Sonic assumed he had been destroyed one way or another. In theory, his only remaining ally was Amy.

But wait! Chaos was back in the Master Emerald, as was Tikal. If Knuckles were dead, then the Master Emerald was up for grabs! He could go to Angel Island and destroy the Emerald, thus freeing them. After what he had done for them a couple years ago, they owed it to him.

"SONIC! LOOK OUT!" a piercing voice shot into his ear. It was Amy, freaking out about something insignificant again. Just a couple more defense robots, these ones with shields. No problem. A couple rolling attacks, and he was free. He blasted out of the last door just as it began to close on him, as a siren signaling for a lockdown sounded.

As he exited, he looked up to see a fleet of fighter planes swoop down on the harbor, dropping bombs.

"Ah," Sonic chuckled, "just like old times." He weaved in and out of the bombs, Amy still in tow. His arms were beginning to give out from carrying he so far. Although he'd never show it on his face, he was getting worried. Could he still escape without losing Amy, or himself? That last bomb had come dangerously close to hitting. It felt like part of his skin had been burned.

"BEEEEAAARRRRM!"

Another bomb exploded just behind him. There had to be some way off the island! How had he escaped again? Oh yeah, it was the missile. Sonic looked around for it and finally saw a huge missile. But what were the odds they would launch it again at the exact moment he needed it? There had to be another way. Tails had taken his plane already, so there was only one choice. He had to hijack one of the military's fighters in the garage.

More exhausted than ever, he ran over to the garage and found a suitable plane-small and probably quick. Just as he opened the cockpit to get in…

"Hold it right there," a voice muttered. Someone had popped out from the plane with a shotgun. Behind him, he heard the click of many more troops behind him, along with the laugh of Rouge.

A couple minutes ago, Sonic might have been able to perform another disappearing act and escape one more, but he was too tired. He tried to talk a valiant way out.

"Fine, I surrender," Sonic murmured. "But let Amy go. She's done nothing."

Rouge gave that bat smile of hers once more. "Now why would I do that, if I could get both of you and increase my reward money?"

Sonic thought quickly. "Because you owe it to me."

Rouge was silent for a second. "You killed Knuckles. I can't let you get away with it."

Sonic's face fell. It would be too hard to escape from anywhere if he had to take Amy with him again.

"But your friend has not," she finished. "I believe that part of it."

She turned to her squad. "Let the pink one go."

"Wait," Sonic stopped them. "How is she going to get off this island with those planes? The way she got here is now gone."

Rouge reverted back to her evil self. "Hey, you said to let her go. You said nothing about how she was going to get off."

"Sonic" Amy whispered into his ear, now more scared than ever. "I get freaked out easily, but this is serious. I don't know if I can do this." This was probably the first time Sonic heard real fear in her voice. She was terrified, not just for her own life, but for his.

Sonic turned to look at her face once more. Even in its scared state, it looked beautiful. He quickly shook the thought out of his mind again. Focus, hedgehog, focus.

"Remember when you saved that bird on the Egg Carrier after you destroyed that robot?" Sonic said softly.

Amy nodded, still shuddering.

"You probably didn't think you could do that, did you? But you pulled it off! You did it! It's just like that now. You don't think you can escape this place, but you're an amazing person! You can do some pretty amazing things. You'll find a way out, don't worry!"

The fear slowly faded from Amy's face, but still remained a little scared. Then, she cracked a tiny smile.

"You be careful," she responded. Then, she wrapped her arms around him. Sonic hugged her as well.

Rouge was not enjoying this at all.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, lubby dubby and all that good stuff. You are under arrest, Sonic, so don't get too cozy with your girlfriend. You, pinky, get out of here."

Amy turned to Sonic one last time and nodded. Then, she ran out to the harbor of exploding missiles and bombs from above. Sonic wanted to stay, make sure Amy would be alright, but he was grabbed by a couple of the troops and cuffed again.

"Get him in a transport," Rouge said. "And put him in the trunk." She laughed maniacally.

Sonic scowled at her. "You're loving every minute of this, aren't you?"

Rouge shook her head, still smiling. "I don't have to tell you that. Government confidentiality. Now let's roll."

Chapter 15

Genius In Da Hood

Blade brought up his com link in his hovercar. After about five minutes of trying to get the right radio wave frequency, he finally got his transmission through to Morphos. After that, a quick dial of a ten digit number got him to the person he wanted. A young black man appeared on the monitor of the com link.

"Yo."

"'Giff, it's me," Blade muttered.

"Is it?" RaGiff looked astonished. "Leo, my man, where you been?"

"Quit with the Leo thing," Blade hissed. "You know better than me anyone could pick this up."

"Oh right," RaGiff rolled his eyes. "Can't have anyone know who you're actually called, can ya? Hold on a sec." RaGiff put Blade on hold. The "Never Scared" music video appeared on the monitor. Blade bopped his head to the slow beat.

Time for a little background. RaGiff and Blade were best friends, having met each other in sixth grade after Blade had changed schools. The two caught on instantly. They had both been drafted into the Mobius army during each of the two Great Wars of Mobius, but an unexpected formality had allowed RaGiff to stay at home both times. Blade knew that this unexpected formality had been set up by RaGiff himself, and he was angry that he didn't get him out of it, too. Which brings us to how RaGiff had made this formality. Despite his outward appearance of being a young black rapper from the ghetto, RaGiff was probably one of the smartest, if not the smartest, man on all of Morphos. In fact, he became the youngest man to ever win the Quinshar Award in Technology. (Note: The Quinshar Award is equivalent to our Nobel Prize) He was 20 when he won that award for advancements in communication and transportation. In fact, the hovercar that Blade sat in at that very moment, War Machine, and its carrier ship, had been built by RaGiff to help him around the galaxy. It had been three years since RaGiff had won the award, and not much less since Blade had spoken with him. It brought back some memories of their younger years.

The music video disappeared. RaGiff reappeared on the screen.

"Well, if it ain't my old bro!" he shouted. "How's it been going? Still in the hunting biz, or didja find yo girl yet?"

Blade's face fell. RaGiff quickly added, "Sorry, man. Just wanted to know, y'know, keep in touch…"

"Nah, it's okay," said Blade. "I was gonna ask if you heard anything, but I guess not."

"Sorry, bro."

"Alright." He perked up. "Listen, I was hoping that you could he…that you could….I wanted some advice."

"Advice?" RaGiff asked incredulously. "That wouldn't be another way of asking for help from little ol' RaGiff, would it?" The black man grinned.

Blade returned the grin. "Yeah, I guess."

Unable to wait for the excitement of a challenge, RaGiff quickly asked, "Okay, first off, where are you?"

"Earth."

"Ooh, big blue, eh? Who you hunting this time?"

"Some hedgehog. Name's Sonic."

"Yeah, I heard of him," RaGiff told him. "Supposed to be faster than light or something. I can look up more stuff on him if you wanna."

"No need. I know pretty much everything I need. What I need you to do is find a way for me to be allowed to capture him legally. The government threw me off the case. I need that money."

"Then tell them you didn't know they threw you off," RaGiff responded, as if it were the mot obvious thing in the world (which it really was).

"I was hoping it wouldn't come to that."

"You just have to hold up that lie. Leave everything else to me. I'll call you when I have something interesting to tell you." RaGiff cut off the connection. Blade was angry for a second at his friend's lighthearted approach to the situation, then thought better of it. RaGiff had never failed him before-except that one time in high school when he crashed the computer system and kept Blade from printing out his English composition on time. If RaGiff said he had things under control, everything was probably just fine.

Mighty led his posse through the Mystic Ruins. This was not good. They had lost Sonic, the bounty hunter, and the other government person. Now they had no clue where anyone was. Until they found the purple cat in the forest again. He was rubbing his head and moaning when Mighty approached him.

"All right, fatso," Mighty began, but was knocked back by a harsh right hook from the cat.

"Uh uh," he boomed. "I'm not tellin' you nothing. I fell for that once, I ain't doin' it again."

Mighty was now the one rubbing his head. But after a second, he was up again.

"You little…" he muttered, walking towards the large cat. Mighty threw a hard punch that was caught in the colossal paw of the cat. Frantically, the armadillo threw another punch caught again by the cat. In an awesome show of power, the cat lifted Mighty over his head and threw him high over the trees, further than the eye could see. A loud thud signaled that Mighty had landed. Espio, Vector, and Charmy immediately thought he was dead.

The feline looked furious.

"Who else wants a piece of Big the Cat?!?" he bellowed. "You?" he asked Espio rhetorically.

"Get to the fighters!" yelled the chameleon. Charmy and Vector ran just behind him, followed by Big. But when the Chaotix gang reached the point where their fighters should have been, they remembered. The bounty hunter Blade had destroyed them and the carrier ship already. They found themselves pinned between the side of a mountain, a pyramid, a wall of trees, and Big.

Big cracked his knuckles. "Who's next?"

"We're dead, aren't we?" Vector muttered to Espio.

Espio couldn't respond. Because Big had him in his grasp already.

Chapter 16

Whose Side Is He On?

Tails was sobbing uncontrollably back at his workshop. Traitor! That's what he was now, a traitor to his best friend and his cause! He had tried to work it out so everyone was happy, tried to make the bounty hunter happy and Sonic. He was going to try to make everything okay. But something went wrong, something he should have anticipated-Sonic escaped! Now the bounty hunter Blade was furious and Sonic was free to invoke any kind of revenge he saw fit! Unless something surprising happened, the only true friend he had was Amy-and she would be torn between the two sides. If Sonic had just been captured, the bounty hunter would be satisfied, and Tails would be able to set him free-then everyone would be happy! But now…oh, now what? He cried for a good twenty minutes until his cell phone rang. "The Authority Song" played until Tails answered.

"He…hello-?" he got out.

"Yo, kiddo, you wanna get yo home dawg back?" a rapper's voice answered back.

"What? What are you talking about?"

"No need to tell you that now, man. Just listen to me and everything'll be cool."

This would be hilarious if it wasn't a close friend. Vector, Mighty, and Charmy could only watch as the giant cat nearly smashed Espio into tiny pieces. He came with so many offensive maneuvers, it was almost like watching those cartoon wrestling matches. Finally, the hapless chameleon lay on the ground.

"Who's next?" the feline boomed.

A large military private chucked Sonic into a rusty cell aboard a large carrier plane. The hedgehog slammed against the steel wall of the cell, sending pain searing through his body.

"Man," he muttered, pointing to the soldier, "I will sue you."

The soldier gave a slight chuckle before turning away. He slammed the door shut and left. Unlike other cell doors, which simply had bars, this one was pure steel with a nearly microscopic window near the top. Just seconds after the troop had left, the door opened again. A different guy showed up, obviously of higher rank due to his uniform being flooded in badges. Plus, his hat looked cooler. If you didn't get a cooler hat for a higher rank, Sonic didn't want to be in the military.

"You have a phone call, Mr. Hedgehog," the troop sneered, his red eyes narrowing and his old, craggily face becoming even more wrinkly. This guy was an oldie for sure.. Sonic gave him his best "What the hell is your problem?" look and grabbed the cell phone in his hands.

"Yo."

"Yo."

This was bad, Sonic thought. No one answered with "yo" except for Knuckles. Who was this guy?

"I know the situation you're in," the voice on the other end said. He sounded like a young black man. "I'm willing to help, but only if you willing to follow my lead."

"Who are you?" Sonic asked.

"No time for that. I just know you innocent and I'm gonna get you out."

"Okay, what do I do?"

The soldier looked a little suspicious, but did nothing. After all, what harm could a simple phone call cause?

"Here's watcha do," the man on the other end said. "Inside your little steel cot thing is a little communication link. The cot opens just like a chest. Don't go for it yet, or the military peoples will take it from you. Once you get it, press the green button, not the red one, 'k then?"

"What, does the red one blow it up?"

"Shut up, you say stuff about buttons and crap and the law man will get to wondering."

"Got it."

"Good. That soldier won't give you any more time, so get it right after he leaves. Talk to ya later."

"Alright."

"Time's up!" bellowed the soldier. He snatched the phone from Sonic and prepared to leave.

"Who was that, anyway?" the soldier snickered "Your girlfriend giving you a last call?"

Sonic smiled back and turned away.

"That wasn't a rhetorical question," the soldier growled.

"Lawyer," Sonic grumbled, his slightly good mood spoiled. This answer satisfied the soldier, who left casually. As soon as the door was shut, Sonic whirled around and opened the steel cot. Just like the man said, a small tan communicator rested inside.

"Tan," Sonic muttered to himself. "Clever." It was the exact same color as his ear, allowing him to conceal it. Kinda like camouflage.

He planted it in his right ear and pressed the green button. A slight crackling sound prefaced the man's voice.

"Finally. What took ya? For someone so fast…"

"I can move pretty damn slow, I KNOW!" Sonic nearly shouted, then covered his mouth.

"Will you shut up?!?" the black man on the other end hissed. "That's the second time your big trap almost blew this whole damn thing.

"Sorry," Sonic said mock apologetically. "I just hear that so much…"

"Alright, no time for psycho sob stories," the voice said. "Here's the deal. Tap your foot around for a place that makes no noise when you hit it."

"'k." Sonic started tapping his foot in the cell, trying to find a non-hollow sound. CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG…

Thump.

Sonic heard it. Was it the right one, or was he just hearing what he hoped was right? He tapped it again. And again. And one more time, to be sure.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

No denying it-this was the place.

"Found it."

"Good," the voice responded. "Beneath it is a bomb-"

"Bad idea," Sonic immediately retorted. "I'm in enough trouble as is, and blowing up a military carrier isn't going to earn me any more brownie points with the public."

"The public ain't your problem right now," the man said. "Yo problem is gettin' out of this junk heap. You set a bomb, it's gonna distract their attention, givin' you a shot at getting out of here."

Sonic thought for a second. Then, he closed his eyes tight.

"Alright." He shook his head, furious that he just agreed to kill innocent lives.

"It's okay, man, it'll be okay. We gonna find someone else to pin this on."

Sonic couldn't believe it. He was turning more and more into a criminal. Next, he was probably going to have to sneak up on some unsuspecting guard and slit his throat. Was this a trap or something?

"Yo, man," he said to his unknown helper, "how is this going to help me at-"

But just then, he heard the door open. The older sergeant walked in.

"Alright, rodent," he growled, what're you up to, I know you're doing something…"

Great. How much had he seen.

Almost instinctively, he landed a flipping kick that knocked the sergeant flat. He was out like a light. The hedgehog groaned-how much more hurt did he have to do? Sonic quickly flipped the trick floor tile up and pulled out the cube-shaped explosive. God, this thing was heavy! After accidentally pressing an activation button as he handled it, a bright green timer began to tick. 30 minutes.

He peered down the tunnel. It was pure midnight black. The last place he wanted to go.

But just behind him, a couple troops trotted up to the unconscious body of the sergeant. Their heads and their guns turned to Sonic.

"You! Convict! Come here!" shouted one of the men. Sonic did just the opposite. He jumped high into the air, pinned his arms to his body to make himself as sleek as possible, and shot down the hole.

All he could do was look on. This was not the way he wanted to do things.

As he fell down the seemingly bottomless pit, Sonic asked sarcastically "Well? Did I do it right?"

"Yep," RaGiff said in mock happiness. "And the best part is, everyone else on that whole damn carrier knows about it, too."

Chapter 17

.com

This was getting out of hand. Big had just clobbered Charmy (though that really didn't take much). Vector was being pummeled right now. Even the crocodile's speed couldn't keep him from Big's rage. Now it was going to be just Mighty against this…monster. Despite his great confidence and strength, Mighty didn't think he had a shot in this bout. But he had to try.

The armadillo heard his cue to enter the arena when he heard the loud crashing sound of Vector hitting a tree. Shaking slightly, Mighty walked towards the purple cat.

"You got me good last time," Mighty muttered, "but I ain't gonna let that happen again."

Big just pounded a massive fist into his other, equally massive hand. "Let's go."

A heavy punch just whizzed by Mighty's head. Now was the time. Hit and never stop. Mighty landed punch after punch to Big's colossal gut. A couple to the head, a quick kick to keep him off guard. That's it, Mighty, that's it, keep going, don't stop, don't let him start swinging again. Sharp jab to the gut, kick in the knee, uppercut to the head. When was this guy gonna get tired? He just took hit after hit.

Just keep going, Mighty, just keep going.

He's not immortal, he's not invincible, he has to be getting tired. Then he realized the only reason he was convincing himself of this was because HE was the one that was tired. He couldn't keep this pace up. And once he was exhausted, the cat would grab him, pile drive him into the ground, snap him in two, perform some other grotesque finishing move.

Just keep going, Mighty, just keep going.

And once he was finished off, then what? Then the vendetta he had promised to Knuckles after his death would remain unfulfilled. Then Sonic would roam free to kill again, maybe head back to the Ubi system, to Mobius, to Carnival Island, kill their friends, become the most feared killer of all time-because he couldn't beat this cat. He couldn't beat this giant cat.

Just keep going, Mighty, just keep going.

He felt his heart race. He was slowing down. Still throwing punches and kicks fast enough so Big had no chance to retaliate, but definitely slower. And soon, his pace would slow down to the point where the cat could respond. And Mighty would have no chance at getting free.

Just keep going, Mighty, just keep going.

The weight of his arms was suddenly unbearable. He couldn't kick anymore, for his legs were too tired. He could barely see or think clearly. It was almost as if the cat was playing with him. Yes, that was it! Oh, that was it! These punches probably did nothing to him. He was exhausting Mighty while barely taking any damage. Just like a cat, keeping his prey alive just to play around with him for a while!

Just keep going, Mighty, just keep going.

Sonic could hear footsteps above him. He had finally landed, but it was pitch black, giving him the ability to see absolutely nothing. This threw him into a sense of panic and fear. Every bump was a troop landing in the same vent Sonic was in, every ping was some radar or security mechanism picking him up, every little noise was disaster.

"RaGiff?"

"Yo."

"Now what?"

"Just keep walking down the tunnel."

"I can't see a damn thing."

"Well, you gotta go slowly. Take your time, feel ahead of you."

"Figures. Not exactly the most exciting thing to do."

"Hey man, you want entertainment, go watch the Cartoon Network or Comedy Central. But if you wanna get outta here in one piece, you better do what I say, son."

"Whatever."

"Dontchu be talkin' to me like that. If it weren't for me, you still be stuck up in that cell waiting for your death wish."

"Alright."

Then, something came to mind. The missile. For some reason, he remembered that missile.

"RaGiff, one more thing."

"Yeah, what?"

"You got a computer around there?"

"Do I have a computer around here?" RaGiff responded sarcastically. "Bro, I been watchin' this whole thing through a monitor, I've got blueprints of the place, and you wanna know if I have a computer around here?"

"Well do ya?"

"Smart now, ain't we? Yes, I have a computer. Why do ya ask?"

"I want you to look something up for me."

"Uh…sure. What?"

"Just go on the Web and try to go to .com."

"What .com?"

"Just .com."

"You kiddin'?" RaGiff laughed. "Man, there ain't no such thing as a .com. But, if you wanna waste my time, then sure." A few clicks of the keyboard. "The computer sez, "We can't find .com." Again, no such place."

Then, "Hey, hold on there. It's loading something."

Sonic perked up. Hope?

"Nope, never mind, blank page. Wait-nope blank page. It just keeps loading the same blank page over and over again."

Sonic sighed as he kept on wandering through the dark. Oh well, it was worth a shot.

"Hey, here it comes," RaGiff almost shouted. "It's loading!"

"For real?"

"Yeah…It's just a logo. It looks like a…It's a head. Huge mustache, too."

Huge mustache?

"Is there any way I can bring it up here?" Sonic asked.

"Actually, there might be. Just a sec. That thing can receive radio signals, but I haven't been able to give a full on transmission before."

In a few seconds, a screen appeared in front of him. Blue at first. Then, after a minute, a white web page with the Eggman logo appeared. But a second later, it disappeared, with the word "Welcome" replacing it. Then, the page disappeared.

"RaGiff, what happened?"

But there was no more RaGiff. Just an evil voice he had come to know all too well.

"I've been waiting for this conversation, Sonic."

"Eggman."

Back on Morphos, RaGiff was freaking out. What was wrong? He didn't have contact with Sonic anymore. He was being blocked by something. He knew loading up that web page was risky, but not like this! Every one of his encryptions for the transmission had folded like nothing. And none of his hacking programs, which had never failed before, kept getting rejected in the earliest stages of breakthrough. Whoever this guy was, he was some kind of smart.

"Dang!" he shouted, shaking his head. Oh well. This was a key part of the operation, but not the only one. There were still two areas of this operation that needed attention. Section A was doing well, and Section C was stalling. That left Section B to attend to.

A couple taps of the keyboard. Then, "Tails, you there?"

"Yeah, read you loud and clear."

"You found that carrier yet?"

"Yeah, but there's too many fighters around here."

"Don't worry. They're not heavily armed, and the pilots aren't too trained. You should be able to take them out. Good luck."

Before Tails could respond, RaGiff cut the connection. Partly because he was through with him, partly because he had just gotten a call.

"Yo."

"Yo," Blade responded.

"What's up man?"

"I need the top news from Capital City."

"Gotcha."

RaGiff brought up a couple windows and finally found the top Capital City web page on his computer.

"Well, what's going on?" Blade asked.

"The Rage won last night. They're in the Stanley Cup."

"Thanks wise guy. Now what about the case?"

"Okay…Hey, look, an arrest warrant for you!"

"Will you quit screwing around?"

"No seriously, you're wanted by the police for violation of government policy," RaGiff insisted.

"Are you kidding?" Blade shouted.

"Nope. What'd you do, steal the Mayor's milk and cookies?"

"Grrr…It must have been that bat girl. She's been giving me trouble ever since I had that hedgehog in the forest. She must have made me look bad to the President."

"Whoo-ooo! The President? Man, that guy must love those cookies of his!"

"Shut up, will you? I'm trying to think."

"Hey man, I'm supposed to be doing the thinking. Who's the batgirl?"

"Rouge the Bat. She's a government agent, supposedly. She's in control of squad 65B."

"Don't worry man. She's history."

"Wait, RaGiff, what are you-"

RaGiff cut him off.

Chapter 18

Who to Believe Now?

The sky was green for a second. Pure jungle green. Then, Amy could begin to make out leaves, trees, and even cracks of blue. Finally, everything came into clear view. Her memory returned to her. The explosions, the running, the jumping…and a plane landed, and she swung her hammer, and…ooh, that part still eluded her, but she remembered running into the forest, day transforming to night, heart pounding, beads of sweat flooding her face, vision blurring, and…well, then she remembered waking up. Then, it hit her. She had made it. She had lived. She had escaped, just like Sonic had said she would! Amy wanted to jump up and scream, but she was too exhausted. All she had strength to do was to get up. Simply stand up. Knees wobbling, she couldn't even lift her hammer. Now came the all important question-now what? She was stuck in the middle of nowhere, exhausted, with no way of communication or transportation. Not even the crickets were chirping. Everything was silent. Past midnight. Sky black.

Amy was all alone.

She was terrified. The next noise might mean her death. Every step could be her last. But what could she do? How had she gotten off last time? Tails had flown Sonic and her off. This time, Tails was on the other side. Sonic was captured. She could swim off, but she wasn't too good of a swimmer-and in her current condition, she probably wouldn't make it more than a quarter mile offshore. What would Sonic do in this situation? C'mon, girl, think of something! She pounded her head with her fist. Think of something, think of something, think of something…

But there was no way. No way at all. Her only chance was to go back to the base and hijack a plane. But she wasn't going back into that death trap. But she had to. Now what? Did she have the guts to go back?

Amy dug deep into her mind, her heart. She knew she could do it. She was the toughest girl she knew. She could take on anyone! She had done it already under much harsher conditions. She could do it again. She was Amy Rose!

She dashed off to the base again. She was getting off this island, and no stupid little army could take her down!

Knuckles jumped from tree to tree, heading towards the Mystic Ruin pyramid. He didn't know exactly where Sonic was, but the last time he checked, he was gonna take a nice vacation there. He had been traveling for two days and was still going strong. The fire burned within him. Fire of vengeance, fire of anger. He was one pissed off echidna, mad as hell, and he wasn't going to take it anymore!

He heard something down in a particularly wooded area. It was definitely a living thing. He leapt up high in the air and swooped down towards the sound. Two people were there. Both he recognized. The first was that giant cat from a few years ago with Chaos. The other was…

"Mighty?"

His armadillo pal looked up.

"KNUCKLES?!?"

The cat-Big, yeah, that was his name, Big-looked too, but said nothing. It looked like he was very winded.

"Knuckles…" Mighty whispered. "What the…"

"What are you doing here?" Knuckles asked.

"I should be asking you!" Mighty shouted. "You're dead! You're supposed to be dead! I…We came all the way from Carnival Island because you're supposed to be dead!"

"Why'd you do that?"

"BECAUSE YOU'RE DEAD!" Mighty bellowed. "WE CAME TO KILL SONIC BECAUSE HE KILLED YOU!"

"I know. Sonic killed me. I still have to get him for that."

Poor Mighty was thoroughly confused-and scared.

"What are you talking about? If you admit you got killed, then how…"

"See," Knuckles began to explain, and he told the tale. He told Mighty about how the Master Emerald saved his life, about the labyrinth, the invisible room, the Minatour, Crystal, Chaotix, and finally, coming here.

"That's it. That's how I'm here," Knuckles finished.

Mighty stood with the blankest of stares on his face.

"Am I missing something here?" he asked, completely confused now.

Knuckles sighed.

"The point is," he muttered, "that I'm back, and now we can kill Sonic together. And you said we, so I guess that means Vector and the guys are here, too. Well, the more the merrier, and the easier to find that blue whelp. I'll start on Prison Island. You guys try Red Mountain. Better yet, take Espio with you, and send Vector and Charmy to Capital City to search. We'll find Sonic, easy."

"Alright Knuckles," Mighty responded, "I get it. We'll all go find him. See you later."

Knuckles nodded, then shook his best friend's hand and glided off through the trees. As soon as the red echidna was out of sight, Mighty ran to Espio and the others, shaking their unconscious bodies.

"Guys, wake up! Knuckles is here, and either I'm nuts, or he's completely insane!"

Rouge was in her room of the carrier, sipping coffee. Life was good. Tomorrow, she'd get her bonus for capturing Sonic, hopefully get another promotion, maybe even to Sergeant! Yeah, Captain Rouge was decent, but Commander was just too good. She blew the smoke levitating over her cup and took another sip. Life really was good.

Knock knock.

Someone banging on her door. Damn. She didn't want to be bothered now.

"What?"

"Ma'am," the young male voice said behind the door, "the General needs you when you're finished."

Rouge's mind did some quick math. General=cash/promotion!

She opened the door and took off to the General's office. She didn't even have to knock.

"Come in," the General's voice boomed. Rouge strolled in.

"You wanted to see me, boss?" Rouge asked casually.

"Yes, I did, Rouge. I need your help."

Help? This didn't mean paycheck.

"The hedgehog you captured…You did a fine job with it, but…"

"But what?" Rouge wanted to yell, but thought better of it. "Yes, General Ramsey?"

"He has escaped from his cell. He's still on this ship, we can confirm that, but we don't know where. Can you get your recon squad to find him?"

"Yes sir," Rouge said halfheartedly. The General could feel this in her voice.

"I will tack on an extra $5000 to your previous reward and you will receive a promotion if you complete this task. The other members of the group will also get $4000 extra.

Rouge beamed.

"You have yourself a deal, General." She shook his hand and ran off. Then, for bonus points, she ducked her head back in. "Sir, I want you to know I would have done it even if you didn't offer me the money."

General Ramsey smiled. "I'm sure you would have. Now get going. Don't let that prisoner escape."

Rouge nodded and took off. She liked General Ramsey. He was an easygoing guy. Plus, if Rouge kept this up, she'd be of an even higher rank than him.

After knocking on the women's dorm and getting her members out nicely, she led them to the men's dorm, where she busted open the door to the men's dorm and flipped on the light. Thirty two men in undershirts and boxers slowly rose, only to cower and throw the covers on at the site of Rouge and the women.

"Oh, quit whimpering, you pathetic losers," Rouge growled. The female troops laughed a bit. Rouge smiled back at them, then continued. "Consider yourselves lucky. This'll probably be the closest to naked any woman other than your mothers will see you. Now get out and get dressed. We've got work to do."