Chapter 9

It hovered there, ominously, casting a dark shadow over the ground below. It was the Egg Carrier, fully repaired, rearmed, and now with two Robotniks at the controls.

"Oh mah stars…" whispered Bunnie, "That thing is HUGE!"

"And packing some mondo heat," SatAM Sonic added.

Sally nodded, "This is bad. That ship could level the whole forest. They wouldn't even have to know where knothole is to wipe it out."

"Especially if they fixed the main cannon," Tails put in.

"No biggy guys," Sega Sonic said, "We sank that thing once, and we can do it again!"

There was a roar and then the great engines of the airship lit up. The Egg Carrier started moving, slowly at first, but picking up speed, pointed straight at the Great Forest.

"We've got to get back to Knothole, to try and prepare some sort of defense…" Sally started, but was cut off by Amy.

"Wait, look at that!" she said, pointing at the ship.

Overhead the Egg Carrier slowly tilted slightly to the left and then began to turn, heading back towards Robotropolis, and then passing over the city.

"What? Where're they going?" Sally asked herself, pulling Nicole off her boot, "Nicole, check the ship's heading."

"Checking, Sally…" Nicole began but was interrupted.

"Egg Carrier heading, 280 degrees, west by north west," Gamma said.

"Er…confirmed Sally," Nicole said.

"I don't get it…there's nothing in that direction that he doesn't already control…why take a ship like that out into the middle of nowhere?" Sally pondered.

"I don't know, Sal, but it can't be just for sight seeing, they're up to something big time," SatAM Sonic said.

Sally nodded, "Agreed. Sonic and…err…Sonic, come with me, we're going to see if Uncle Chuck knows anything about what they're up to. Everyone else, head back to Knothole. Bunnie, have Rotor get the Freedom Stormer ready."

"Aye aye, Sally-girl," Bunnie said, before dashing off, quickly followed by the rest of the group.

Sally glanced back and forth between the two Sonics for a second, relieved that she could ell them apart by their shoes at least. "All right, let's move. Sonic you know the way.

SatAM Sonic nodded and said, "You got it Sal." While at the exact same time Sega Sonic said, "No I don't."

SatAM Sonic looked at his counterpart, "She meant me,"

"Oh, right," Sega Sonic replied, "Man this whole thing gives me a headache,"

"You and me both pal," SatAM Sonic agreed. "Let's juice!" he yelled, scooping up Sally as he sped off.

"Hey, no fair!" Sega Sonic protested as he raced to catch up.

…..

"Tails?"

"Yes, Cream?"

"Do you go on missions with the others?"

SatAM Tails and Cream were back in Knothole, up in the lookout tower. Tails had a pair of binoculars and was scanning the area for any sign that one of Robotnik's patrols might be coming towards the village. Cream was supposed to be helping him, but she was just leaning against the rail, watching the scenery. Cheese was picking up her slack though, hovering over her head with his own pair of binoculars.

"Not really," Tails answered, "Sonic takes me along on his solo missions sometimes, but Aunt Sally always gets mad whenever she finds out. She says I'm 'too young' or that it's 'too dangerous'."

"Oh."

"What about you?"

"What do you mean?" Cream asked.

"Do you go on missions with your freedom fighters?" Tails clarified.

"Well, yes," she said, never having thought of the group as freedom fighters, even though it fit, they may not be fighting to free the planet from Robotnik, but they do fight to protect it from him. "But I've never really liked fighting, I only went because I had to." She continued. "The first time I joined everyone in an adventure, Robotnik had kidnapped my mother. Then I went with Amy and Mr. Big, he's a cat, to rescue Cheese's brother Chocola from Metal Sonic, then there was Emerl…" She paused. "I guess I've only really gone because I had too, not because I really wanted to."

"Why not? Fighting Robotnik's a good thing."

"I know," Cream sighed, "But people get hurt when they fight, and sometimes….they don't come back."

Tails wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he turned his attention back to his watch. His ears perked up as he spotted Bunnie running out of the trees, heading for the entrance to the sliding tree. "Hey look, they're back!"

…..

As soon as she was out of the haystack, Bunnie rushed over to Rotor's workshop. Before she'd even gotten to the door, she could hear that he had that "music" machine of his on again, how he could work with that racket she would never know. She pushed open the door, and saw Rotor busy working on the deroboticizer. He was facing away from her so he didn't notice Bunnie entering.

"Rotor!" she called, but her voice was drowned out by the music machine. Bunnie marched up right behind him and shouted at the top of her lungs. "ROTOR!"

Rotor jumped about a foot in the air before fumbling with a small remote that he used to turn the machine off. "Bunnie, you almost made me jump out of my skin!"

"Sorry, shugah," Bunnie apologized, "But I'm afraid we have a little 'ol crisis on our hands. Sally wants you to get the 'ol Freedom Stormer out of the mothballs."

"Um, ok," Rotor replied, glad he hadn't scrapped the plane for spare parts, "Are we going somewhere?"

Bunnie nodded, a grim look crossing her features, "Most likely sugah."

…...

Back in Robotropolis, a pair of twin Sonic booms disturbed the silence of an apparently deserted, and junk clogged, alley. Both Sonics came to a stop near the large junk pile, and Sally hopped out of her Sonic's arms.

"This is where your Uncle lives?" Sega Sonic asked, "I'd fire the decorator."

"Cute," SatAM Sonic said, picking up a nearby brick.

For a split second Sega Sonic thought he was going to hit him with it, but then SatAM Sonic used it to bang twice on a nearby pipe, then twice again. It was quiet for a moment, then a whole section of the junk pile lifted up to reveal a hidden doorway. SatAM Sonic quickly led the others inside.

"Yo, Unc!" SatAM Sonic greeted.

"Hello, Sir Charles," Sally said.

The roboticized form of Sir Charles stood up from where he'd been sitting and turned to greet the two. "Sonic, Sally, I…" He cut off mid sentence as he saw not one, but two Sonics standing there. "Oh my…" He looked from Sega Sonic to the other two, "I take it that Robotnik isn't the only one with a duplicate running around then?"

"I'm afraid a full explaination will have to wait, Sir Charles," Sally said, "Robotnik, or rather the Robotniks, have just launched an enormous flying battleship."

Uncle Chuck nodded, "Yes, the Egg Carrier. It just appeared out of thin air." He broke into an amused grin, "Settled right on top of a couple of SWATbot factories on the south side, squashed them flat." However his grin disappeared as he continued, "I didn't find out exactly what it was until after your visit Sonic, otherwise I would have mentioned it."

"So do you know what they were planning with the thing?" SatAM Sonic asked.

"Not exactly. It was moved to an underground drydock for repairs, obviously it's not there now. But, the new Robotnik promised ours that he could help him find the Chaos Emeralds, but those are only legends."

The two Sonics and Sally looked at each other gravely.

"Not as legendary as you might think, Chuck," Sega Sonic said, taking off his backpack and opening it to reveal the emeralds inside.

"Oh my…" Uncle Chuck reached inside and picked up the green emerald, rotating it slowly as he examined it. "But if you have the emeralds here…" he said, returning the emerald, "Where are they going?"

Something clicked in Sega Sonic's mind, "Oh man, they're not after our emeralds, they're after yours, I mean, this world's!" A chill went down his spine as he thought of something else, "And if I'm right, we've got to beat the Egg Carrier to where it's going! Otherwise history's about to repeat itself in a bad way."

…….

"Oh, yes, it's just as I predicted," Eggman chuckled as he looked over the readings on the emerald radar. Robotnik stood behind him, watching with anticipation, while his Metal Sonic stood watch nearby.

"Then…it really does exist?" Robotnik asked eagerly.

"Of course!" Eggman turned away from the screen to face his counterpart. "Our worlds may be different, but there are certain parallels that they both share. That detestable hedgehog, for instance." He pointed to the large blip on the screen, "This is another. The chaos emeralds will be there and even if they aren't I'm sure that a suitable consolation prize awaits us as well. Now…here's the basic plan, and if I'm right, another…parallel…will keep our mutual problems at bay…"

…….

"They're going WHERE!?" Knuckles shouted.

They were all in the Freedom Fighter's meeting hut, Sally and the two Sonics having just returned from Robotropolis.

"You heard me Knux, so sit down," Sega Sonic told him.

"BUT…" he tried to protest, but was interrupted by Amy.

"He said sit down Knuckles!" she said, grabbing his tail and yanking him back into his seat. Knuckles turned to give her an angry scowl, but she responded with a glare of her own.

"Look," Sally said, attempting to defuse an argument, "Obviously we're not going to let the Robotniks get their hands on the emeralds, but our problem right now isn't where we're going, but how to get there. Rotor's getting the Freedom Stormer ready, but, no offense to Rotor, it was never the most…air worthy plane ever, and I don't know if it could handle such a long trip. And it defiantly isn't capable of catching the Egg carrier."

"No problem!" Sega Tails said enthusiastically, "We can tow it using the Cyclone."

Sally nodded, "That could work, but we'll need to make sure we can detach it in an emergency."

"And don't forget about me!" Dulcy piped in.

"Right." Sally nodded in agreement. "Ok then, let's get moving."

……

Metal Sonic, the one not from this universe, was busy on the forward flight deck, overseeing the SWATbots and worker bots as they went about preparing the whole wing of hover units that Robotropolis had supplied. Or at least that's what he was supposed to be doing. In reality he was sorting through his systems. Something was…wrong. He could feel it. He wasn't sure what, he'd checked his systems three times so far, and hadn't detected any anomalies, but still this…feeling…of wrongness lingered. It'd been with him ever since he'd rebooted after receiving that power surge from the ring. Something had changed, inside him, but he couldn't figure out what it was.

Metal put it aside for now. He hopped down from the runways and headed forward until he was standing at the front of the egg carrier, right above the opening nose cone than housed the egg cannon. He considered the situation. Was the Doctor really about to try almost the exact same scheme he had used years ago? Though he had to admit the odds were higher for success this time, especially if there weren't to many differences between this world and theirs.

"You there!"

Metal winced, it was that Snively again. He turned to see him standing on the edge of the runways, looking at him.

"Get up here!"

Did he think he was a mindless E-series or something? His counterpart may be subservient, be he certainly had more pride than that! He'd love to teach the small human a thing or two…maybe switch his shampoo with a hair remover so he'd lose those three or so he had left. However he did return to the flight deck anyway.

"You're supposed to be overseeing the workerbots, not enjoying the view!" Snively told him once Metal had returned.

Metal scoffed, "These drones need supervision about as much as I need to take orders from you."

The little human looked like he might burst a blood vessel, "How dare you, I…"

"YOU, are someone who needs to learn WHO he can give orders to," Metal interrupted, getting close enough to stick his pointy nose into Snively's large one. "Now, if Dr. Robotnik needs me to do something important, come find me," he said, and flew off, heading towards the rear of the ship, leaving behind a very pissed Snively.

………

"Ok try it now!" SEGA Tails called as he extracted himself from the Freedom Stormer's engine compartment.

Rotor gave him a thumbs up and hit the start button. The engine gave a cough, a sputter, then came up to a roar before settling down to a loud purr. The walrus climbed out of the cockpit and came over to stand next to the fox. "Wow, she's sounding better than ever!"

"No problem," Tails said, "I mostly just had to replace a lot of parts, most of them looked like they should be on a junk pile, I mean…" he stopped when he saw the look on Rotor's face, "What's wrong?"

"Well…most of the parts I used to build it came from Robotnik's junk piles…" Rotor explained embarrassedly.

However Tails' ears perked up at this, "Wow, really? If you can build stuff like this from junk, I'd love to see what you could do with new stuff!"

"Well…thanks," Rotor replied, unused to such praise. "Let's get your plane hooked up now." He said, changing the subject.

Tails nodded, "Right." And they headed back to Rotor's workshop to get what they'd need.

………

Meanwhile, while they waited for the travel arrangements to be finished, the two Sonics had moved themselves to the outskirts of the village, racing each other in laps around it to try and see who was faster. So far it had proven a tie. They were currently taking a breather at the bridge near the village's exit.

"So…these chaos emeralds, how do they work exactly?" SatAM Sonic asked his counterpart.

The other Sonic shrugged, "I don't know, exactly. Tails has a couple of ideas…but they've got too many scientific words in there for me to understand. Mostly you just concentrate on what you want to do, and they do it."

"Cool. And what about the mondoly awesome Super thing?"

"You need all seven for that, again we don't really know why," Sonic sighed, "We've been using them for years, but the emeralds are still a big mystery mostly."

"Huh," SatAM Sonic digested that for a moment, before grinning, "Bet it's still way past cool to do though."

"You got that right!" Sega Sonic said, grinning right back, "Now, I think this time I'll totally smoke you in speed!"

"Ha! You wish!" the other responded, before they both vanished in twin dust trails.