In the end, the Master's calculation was wrong. It had estimated that repairing the barrier would take half a day.

It took not half of that.

Knuckles, Savior of Echidnas, Guardian of the Master Emerald, sat back to back with his mate and partner, Myla, Conscience of Echidnas, also Guardian of the Master Emerald.

His eyes were shut, but his other senses reveled in her proximity—the soft touch of skin and skin, her sweet aroma, the gentle rhythm of her breathing.

As a ritual, he flickered his consciousness over the island. As usual, nothing was out of the ordinary. Never in the past did he think such words would be so pleasant.

She stirred against him. "Knuckles," she said.

"Yes?"

"If all the echidnas were tossed into another dimension, how is it that you were here?"

He shrugged. "I have no memory of it, but I asked the Emerald. It told me that I had just come into the world then, that I was being born just as the experiment began. Because I was only partly born, I was spared—like the towers and forests, I remained even as the Echidnas disappeared."

"So you've never seen echidnas being born?" she said coyly.

"No," he replied, suspicious.

"You will," she said. "Soon, you will."

Knuckles felt the great surge of emotion within him. He'd only ever felt it since Myla had returned, but he hadn't known its name. Fortunately, when he'd asked, Myla had told him. It was a good name.

It was called "love".

FIN

Disclaimer (the unfortunate necessity)

This story contains characters and situations the author "borrowed" from other sources. These would be one or more of the following: SEGA, Archie Comics, and Dic. The author makes no claim that these are his own inventions and vehemently denies that he will ever use them for profit. However, this story is copyrighted by Sam Durbin, a.k.a. Bryon Nightshade, and is bound by all applicable laws and statutes.