Author's Note: I originally wrote this story before the release of "Sonic Adventure"; my source material was limited to what one could learn by playing "Sonic 3 and Knuckles". Since then, Sonic Team has dramatically changed Knuckles, the Floating/Angel Island, and the history of the Master Emerald, so this story ends up looking like a very alternate universe. If this doesn't bother you, you're well on your way to enjoying the story. /End author's note.
Knuckles, Last of the Echidnas, Guardian of the Master Emerald, sat on a rock near the edge of his island. His thoughts drifted back to that encounter with the hedgehog and the human. He chuckled, noting that at least it had broken up his existence for a while. Slowly, his mind receded into meditation. He let the wind whip by him as the island ran its course.
His reverie was violently disturbed. A sound halfway between a screech and a rip shattered the silence of his mind. In the second it took for him to return his mind to control of his body, the sound seemed to crescendo, then to end with crack. When he had control again, he quickly stood and spun around.
There was something very different about the scene. This part of his home was jungle, had been for the duration of his existence; but now it seemed both more overgrown and less healthy. There was a shift in mood from how it had been even a sliver of time before.
But what caught and hung up his agile eye was another creature, standing alone, rubbing its face as if to rub the stars out of her eyes.
His chin dropped. An echidna! One of his own species! He'd never seen one besides himself, in the indefinite eternity of his existence!
She was shorter than he was, her dreadlocks were smaller, she was frailer and lighter-colored; but she was also, undeniably and unambiguously, an echidna.
Surprise was not a strong enough term for Knuckles' reaction. Even shock was far too weak. Knuckles was completely stupefied.
Apparently, she was done clearing her eyes, for she now looked at Knuckles. "Hello," she said. "A little embarrassed?" she lightly chuckled.
Knuckles tried to get his mouth to work. In some corner of his mind, he was half-surprised he understood what she was saying, but he filed it away as something the Master was responsible for. He managed to swallow. "Em—embarrassed?"
"Yes," she said, still chuckling. "You're naked!"
Naked? It was a foreign concept to Knuckles. He looked himself over. Yes, he supposed, he was naked; but why was that relevant? He looked at her; no, she was not naked, and it appeared that her "clothing"—ending above her knees, strapped over her shoulders and not extending over her arms—did not hinder her movement. He decided to voice his objections. "What does that matter?"
He must have shocked her terribly; she withdrew a step, blinking. "It's obscene!"
Again, he looked himself over. Strictly speaking, in terms of reproductive organs protruding, that assessment was incorrect; his fur was more than sufficient to cover his body. He was not "obscene" by any definition he knew.
He said as much.
"But it's obscene to be showing so much of yourself! I mean, I myself am pushing things a little with this," she went on, indicating her clothing. "I mean, I don't want to be called a nudie or something."
Knuckles missed the last comment, as he was working on the first. "Pushing things" seemed to denote a societal standard. That meant she came from some sort of community. Knuckles wouldn't let imagination of what that meant run away with his brain; he needed his faculties on the here-and-now. He filed that line of inquiry away for another occasion. "My fur is enough," he said flatly, trying to deflate the tizzy he was obviously working her into. That didn't appear to work, judging from her stance and expression; he tried to change the subject. Extending his hand in what he had long accepted as a universal sign of trust, he approached and asked, "What is your name?"
Perhaps her strange definition of obscenity was a greater taboo than he expected. She took a small step backwards before reaching out with her hand as far as she could reach, keeping him away from her. "Myla," she answered. "And you?"
"Knuckles." There, he thought; a rapport. He'd successfully opened relations. He wanted to mine as much information as he could out of this opportunity.
Before he could begin, though, she spoke again. "What an odd name. 'Knuckles'. What are you doing way out here?"
It was an inquiry, that was for sure. Knuckles ran over the words again, determining they were asking for motive. He stalled for a moment, trying to determine how to answer. Motive was not a thing he was often asked, and this suited him, for he often went without one. He stalled longer, trying to determine which answer would work best to maintain this rapport. "No reason" or "Just because" would probably sound dismissive; he decided to try, "To clear my head."
She nodded, as if she understood. A part of his brain felt relief. He'd chosen correctly! "I know how that is. I've got so much to worry about. What do you think about?"
"Nothing." The words were out before he could control them. She looked at him in a way he interpreted as confused and repulsed; he would have to find a way to soothe this misstep. "What I mean is, I sit here and try to…" he "tried to" find words to describe it, or anything for that matter "… to clear my mind and to think of nothing."
"You have a funny way of conveying no information whatsoever," she responded. He quickly analyzed this response. "Funny way" seemed good, but the negative confused him. He decided that the statement was disapproval. He sighed, hoping that the conversation would avoid straying into colloquialisms; that curious dialect the hedgehog had spoken had made him virtually unintelligible.
He felt a need to say something further about his motive. He tried something new. "Sometimes I test how close to the edge I can approach without falling off," he said, struggling a bit.
Her expression went totally to the confused side. "Edge?"
Finally, he could lead! This was an opportunity to display something of enough interest to keep the rapport going. He allowed his expression to brighten. "Follow me." He rose and walked ahead of her towards the edge.
He felt her stop behind him and turned to respond. He didn't know why she'd stopped, but her expression bore some… he classified it as fear. He didn't understand; the edge was natural to him, a given. He reached out and grabbed her arm. Slightly pulling her, he brought her close to the edge.
"Be careful," he said as he knelt. She followed his lead. He felt as if her body was deadening, as if she was controlling it less. He wondered why that might be as he carefully pushed her head out over the edge.
She gasped loudly and pushed away from the edge with great haste. Though Knuckles hadn't looked over, he knew what she'd seen: several hundred echidna-lengths of open air over the ocean.
Her facial expression seemed to Knuckles like a fish out of water: her mouth opened and shut uncontrollably while her eyes widened considerably. He tried to reach out to her, but she recoiled and withdrew from him. Knuckles' frustration and disappointment leaked through his control. What was wrong with her?
"What is it?" he said, anger creeping into his voice.
She looked at him wide-eyed. "What… happened?" she managed.
He tried to think of some implication of her words, but in the end, he fell back to their literal meaning. What happened to the island, that was the full question. But this was a disappointment. "It has always been like this," he told her, "as long as I have existed."
"But… but… that's not possible! Just last week I visited one of the colonies, and our city wasn't on any… any floating island!"
She was speaking too quickly; Knuckles lost bits of her words, but he could manage to shape a meaning using her negative. "I come here every day. The edge is not new. You are new."
Apparently, she could not accept this. Knuckles saw her back off, then turn away from him and run. Knuckles shook his head in bitter disappointment. The first echidna he'd seen in his life, and she couldn't even talk sensibly.