Sonic the Hedgehog and all other canon characters are copyrighted and
produced by both Sega and Archie comics. The plot is the only thing
owned by me, and no profit is being made with this story.
The Ultimate Adventure: The Mobius Saga
Chasing for Escape
One week had passed since the battle at Mushroom Hill, and the peace and tranquility that was once housed on the island was slowly returning. There had been no attacks since the incident; possibly, Dr. Eggman was concocting another scheme to retrieve the Chaos Emerald—
"Not a chance," replied Sonic casually once Tails asked him about the possibility.
—The serenity was welcoming, since it was lost from the two battles that occurred three days apart.
Nevertheless, the battle upset Roquefort greatly for two reasons. One of them was that he did not like having robots trespassing Mushroom Hill, and it was usual, since he lived there. The other was a little more serious. After the incident, he became very depressed for a short amount of time: Although thousands of the Summer Mushrooms survived, about four-dozen of them died from the ambush. It was only the second time that the Mobian mosquito had to jettison any fungi from his home, and it made him just as uncomfortable as he the first time. Unfortunately, he never had to dispose of them in this magnitude; removing dozens of youthful mushrooms would surely upset anyone, especially him.
The day before Roquefort discarded the last of the dead mushrooms, Alexander invited himself over to help Roquefort remove the rotting fungi. He did so for two reasons. Firstly, he wanted to see how the dead mushrooms looked like (courtesy of Amy who involuntarily suggested that to him). Secondly, he felt sorry for the mosquito and wanted to console him.
Speaking of the Halbery child, his wounds had already healed, thanks to the medical sap; and he was no longer wearing the bandages that protected the wounds. Although he still carried his travel bag, it felt much lighter, now that his old clothes were ditched. As for his new attire, he now wore everything black. His long-sleeve shirt was black, as well as his new pants, socks, and sneakers.
The last dead mushroom was located within Ebony Trail, and this was where the setting began. There, Roquefort had sawed up the last dead mushroom he could find. The tool that was used had the same wooden edges like most traditional saws, but instead of a blade, hundreds – possibly thousands – of saw leaves that were dried, preserved, and glued together to form one sharp tool.
Once Roquefort put the saw away and walked onto the trail, Alexander asked him, "Ready to take it out now?"
Roquefort sighed sadly. "Yeah, let's go."
They bent down, picked up the stalk (Roquefort carried the top while Alexander held onto the bottom), and began walking slowly down the trail.
Alexander had to admit that helping with carrying a deceased mushroom made him nervous, as well as sad. It was like watching a casket being taken to the grave, then watching it being buried. It made him brokenhearted.
While walking, he looked down and noticed a small black rock that rested in the middle off the path. Seeing it made him cringe, as well as recall something. He had forgotten where exactly, but gazing at the rock made him remember. He knew he tripped over something, but he did not know what—
Yes, that was it! That rock was what caused him to fall to the ground. No wonder why he fell.
"Something tells me I'm going to have to be more aware of my surroundings quite soon," he thought and gave the rock a side-glare.
"Like that will happen," teased the cyan Chaos Emerald's voice in his head.
Alexander muttered crossly, only to hear the Emerald's laughter in response. The child shortly returned to mourning.
As they trekked melancholily, they arrived at an intersection that split two ways. One went right; the other went left.
Roquefort looked both ways, then turned right and followed down the path, Alexander trailing behind him.
The area Ebony Trail was like now was very spacious. Instead of it being five feet, the path was now twenty feet wide. The mushrooms towered above them, and the big yellow caps blocked most of the sunlight.
It seemed to fit the mournful environment, according to the Halbery child. He wished he could find some way to cheer Roquefort up and put it behind him. "Poor Roquefort," he thought sadly after looking at Roquefort.
Nothing more was said, thought, nor heard until they arrived at an area that Alexander never saw before. The black path had ended, and the ground expanded to where it looked like a circle that was 150 feet in diameter. The mushrooms encircled the end of the pathway, their tall structures towering above them.
In the middle of the circle stood a machine 45 feet tall. It looked square, but with a few contraptions. The squared part of the machine was 75 feet in both length and width, and ten feet in height. It was covered with heat-resistant metal, and a long black-metal door that reached from one end of the face to the other. Connected to the top was a gigantic smokestack. On the top portion of the contraption was a triangular base, followed by a chimney that protruded upward to about five feet above the caps. Just like the rectangular bottom, the base and smokestack were both made out of heat-resistant metal.
Roquefort turned right and was about one-quarter around when he put the top part of the dead Summer Mushroom down. Alexander saw what he did and put the bottom half on the ground, as well.
"We're here, Alexander," said Roquefort, a very morbid look on his face, and he walked toward the human.
Alexander did not notice it as he gazed at the machine. "What is this, Roquefort?" he asked while staring at the contraption.
Roquefort stopped after hearing the question and stood on Alexander's right. "This is a cremation furnace, Alexander," he replied monotonously. "All the dead mushrooms get disposed of in here."
Alexander gasped, but kept his focus on the furnace. "You cremate them in here?" he asked and pointed at it with his right hand.
Roquefort replied with both a hum and a nod, and he walked to the left of the circle. "I cut the mushroom into smaller size, place the pieces in the furnace, and wait for it to burn," he explained, his voice still without any emotion.
"I see," said Alexander and he stepped over the stalk and walked towards the mushrooms behind him on the right side of the trail. But he kept his focus on the cremation furnace as he did so. "I'm pretty surprised that the deceased mushrooms get cremated," he thought with a bit of a reiteration. "I've heard about things like this, and I've heard that it's very hard to do something like this."
What he said was right, because when he looked from the smokestack to the left of the furnace, he noticed Roquefort pushing a small stairwell. It had three small wooden steps, and they looked weathered. Moreover, the mosquito was shedding a tear from his left eye, which saddened the human more.
"So, Roquefort does consider his mushrooms his babies, after all," he thought then looked up at the canopy of fungi above him. "And it's like Mushroom Hill's becoming part of my home, too," he added with a sad sigh.
As he looked up, thinking about Mushroom Hill and how the deaths took a toll on him, Roquefort started the cremation process. After placing the small stepladder in front of the furnace door, the mosquito brandished his leaf-covered saw and cut the stipe into five equal pieces. Doing it was an easy process for him, for the shriveled trunk was hollow and easy to cut through, but it was still hard for him. He never ever enjoyed cutting them, especially since their lives were cut short by the blasted Vamparrots!
…Nevertheless, he had to do what he had to do, and that was to cut them down and burn them in his furnace, a furnace that he only had to use just once in his life prior to this week.
When he finished cutting the stalk into five equal pieces, he put the black cap onto the ground and cut it into quarters. Once he did that, he put the saw down on the ground, walked up the stepladder, and opened the door of the cremation machine. It looked sooty inside, as there were many leftover ashes on the bottom, apparently from the other mushrooms that were burned and removed during the week.
Once the door was opened, Roquefort walked down the stepladder, picked up two pieces of the stalk like they were logs for firewood, walked up the stepladder again, and put the two pieces deep into the furnace. He then walked back down and repeated the process by picking up two more sections of the stem before putting in the last piece. Afterwards, he carried one wedge of the cap, placed it into the back of the dark furnace, and did the same with the other two pieces.
After pushing the last piece of the cap into the furnace, Roquefort sighed sadly and wiped a loose tear that rolled down the left side of his pointy nose. "Farewell, my baby," he thought mournfully and closed the door. He finally walked down the stepladder, walked to the right side of the furnace, and pushed a button hidden within the structure. The crackling of fire could be heard from within the oven, and smoke puffed out from the smokestack above.
Alexander saw the smoke while looking up at the canopy of fungi and looked at Roquefort, who stood in front of him. He felt sorry for his newfound friend and wanted to comfort him. So, he pushed himself off the stem and walked toward his friend. When he was on the mosquito's right, he wrapped his left hand around the back of his neck and placed it on his left shoulder, as if he was giving him strength.
Roquefort made no response to Alexander's gesture. Not yet, at least.
"Are you sure you're gonna be okay?" asked Alexander as they were walking back towards the main plateau of the Summer Mushrooms.
"Yeah, I'll be okay, so don't worry," responded Roquefort, his arms crossed over his chest. It was more of his usual chipper, casual tone, something Alexander found more suitable.
Alexander, nevertheless, was not so sure. The change of moods sounded so sudden. "You don't want to go through a time of mourning?"
"Mm-mm," replied Roquefort and shook his head with his eyes closed. "I mentally recover quickly, so don't worry."
"I hope so," replied Alexander in thought. He was certain that Roquefort would not mentally recover that fast. But he did not want to question it anymore, so he dropped the subject.
Instead, he looked up and put his hands into his pockets. "So…" he said, trying to think of a subject to use in a conversation, "do we have any plans on continuing our journey through Mushroom Hill?"
Roquefort's eyes seem to perk a little after hearing his quip. "I think I've forgotten about that," he replied and turned to his right.
Alexander looked down onto the ground and took his hands out of his pockets. "I wonder when our tour will resume," he thought aloud, trying to continue the conversation. Stilted or not, he wanted to talk about something; he was in no mood for silence.
"How about tomorrow, then?" wondered Roquefort.
Alexander shrugged. "I don't mind that," he said. "Is it okay if I come at around 10 o'clock tomorrow morning?"
Roquefort replied with a nod, and Alexander responded with a smile of his own.
Afterwards, nothing more was said as they kept walking through Ebony Trail.
Once they reached the open fields of the Summer Mushrooms and towards the Royal Mushrooms, Alexander asked Roquefort, "D'ya know where the path to the altar is?"
"Go to the Autumn Mushrooms, and turn a left once you arrive at Horseshoe Gate," advised Roquefort, pointing at the path to the Autumn Mushrooms with his right hand. "There should be a road that will lead you all the way there."
"Understood," said Alexander before asking him, "Could you meet me at Horseshoe Gate tomorrow?"
"Of course," smiled Roquefort.
Alexander nodded in reply, said "good-bye," and walked away.
Alexander would not talk again until he arrived at the creek that separated the Summer and Autumn sections. At least, he did not talk without any instigation from his counterpart.
"Alexander," interrogated the Chaos Emerald as he zoomed out from inside the bag.
"Yes?" said Alexander and looked at the gemstone on his left.
"Instead of using Chaos Control, why do you plan to take the long route to Hidden Palace?"
Alexander walked along the bank and started explaining just as he arrived at the stones. "Well, since there's a lot of sunshine left, I don't want to spend the rest of the day at the shrine," he replied as he walked to the stones. Then, as he walked over them and into the path, he added, "Plus, I don't want to face Knuckles right now."
The Chaos Emerald's light blue aura dimmed, signaling confusion to his friend. "Why don't you want to face Knuckles right now?" he asked before recalling the events from yesterday. "I remember now. You stole me from him late last night," he added with a bit of cunningness in his tone.
"Exactly," said Alexander, recalling the scene in his head. "And I have absolutely no intention to face his wrath right now." He then grimly added in thought, "Although I will have to face it when I get back."
The gemstone detected his thoughts. "I'll have to agree with that," he replied teasingly.
Either ignoring his slyness or being oblivious to it, Alexander merely nodded in reply as they arrived at Horseshoe Gate. Unlike the Summer Mushroom plantation, the scenery at the Autumn fungi did not change. All the blue-capped mushrooms (whether they were dark or light) towered above, behind, and in front of him.
"The Autumn Mushrooms were lucky they didn't receive damage," said Alexander, "unlike the Summer ones," he added sadly.
"Nevertheless, the forest was lucky enough to receive only minor damage," said the Chaos Emerald and glowed his aura strongly, telling him that he was done with the discussion.
"Point taken," said Alexander; he already had enough talking about any form of plantation that bought the farm. "Now, we need to find the other path."
He did not have to search for long; he turned left and noticed a path that was about ten feet wide. The Autumn Mushrooms towered above it, looking like skinny skyscrapers.
"Time to return home." Without another word, he walked down the new path, the Chaos Emerald floating beside him.
A crisp breeze wafted past Alexander as he slowly walked down the new stretch of land. It felt very serene; it looked very serene. Several of the mushrooms were about 30 to 45 feet tall, and every one of them swayed gently in the calm wind, as if they felt happy and relaxed.
"And happy they are," thought Alexander and sighed gaily while gazing at the Autumn Mushrooms.
The Chaos Emerald tracked his thoughts, but left them alone.
A few minutes later, he found himself on a stone bridge. The pathway was made up of stone and weeds, and the barricades were built from the same material. The brook – which was a mere fifteen feet below – floated and glistened in the sunlight. Ahead was another dirt road, connecting both sides with the bridge, and there were rows of tall pine trees. They looked like the ones he saw at the Hidden Palace.
"Shall we go now?" asked the Chaos Emerald; Alexander only stopped for a half-minute, and the gemstone was feeling impatient already!
Alexander looked at the Emerald. "Right," he responded and walked across the bridge and into the pine forest.
The evergreen forest looked and felt just as tranquil as Mushroom Hill. If not, it felt a little more tranquil. The only difference was the color of the plantation. Instead of it being dirty copper or golden, the trunk was brown and rough. The needle leaves were emerald green, compared to the colored caps the mushrooms had, and they sparkled in the sunlight. Finally, the road split the forest, and the brook floated nearby.
"Very nice area," said Alexander to himself as he walked down the path and looked at the trees at the same time. Beauty seemed to attract itself whenever he wandered into wildlife.
"Angel Island's has a lot of nature," said the Chaos Emerald from Alexander's right. "You won't find any factories here."
"Thank heavens," said Alexander before gave the gemstone a curious look. "Wait a second. How d'ya know about factories?"
"Two reasons," said the Chaos Emerald matter-of-factly, but with a concealed teasing manner. Explaining things to the curious teenager seemed like so much fun. "One: Dr. Eggman accustoms to machines like factories. He always craves for them; he always wants to make a robot before the day dies out. Two: I entered your world and scanned it. There were a lot of things man-made, like skyscrapers, trains, and stadiums."
"You're correct there," thought Alexander and rolled his eyes.
The conversation continued without any more interruptions.
"Well, I should stand myself corrected, actually," interjected the Chaos Emerald. "There's another reason why I know about factories and many other pieces of machinery."
"Hmm?" hummed Alexander curiously and placed his left index finger on his left cheek. "There is?"
"Mm-hmm," responded the Emerald, and if he could smile teasingly, that was what he would be doing right now, "but you'll have to wait for that. I don't want to explain at the moment."
Alexander felt like sighing at the secretive behavior his mystic friend was giving him. He was tempted in asking him what it was, but it was unlikely he was going to receive any information about it.
"If you say so," the human shrugged and looked ahead once more. The summit of Angel Mountain was peaking out from the treetops. "Looks like I'm heading the right way."
"And that would be correct," responded the Chaos Emerald, detecting Alexander's thoughts again.
The Halbery child inwardly groaned. "You really love to detect my thoughts, don't ya?"
"What can I say?" said the cyan gemstone with covert witticism. "It's one of my favorite hobbies."
"I can tell," said Alexander and rolled his eyes.
The Chaos Emerald merely chuckled as they kept on traveling.
The journey would become very quiet as they took their time along the path. An ocean breeze blew by occasionally, swaying the tops of the evergreen trees and (somewhat) blowing his bangs over his eyes. The environment felt very tranquil and very peaceful, something Alexander himself really enjoyed. It would not feel like home without it.
Neither the human nor the jewel would talk again until they were halfway from the altar.
"Maybe, you should've used me to travel back, anyway," said the Chaos Emerald as he floated around Alexander's back and at his left.
"Probably," said Alexander as he looked up at the sky; it was still crystal blue, and it had yet to change. "But we'll wait it out a little longer."
"I should've expected that," muttered the Chaos Emerald in an extremely low tone. He was starting to feel very impatient; he was anxious in finishing this exploration as quickly as possible. Finally, he sighed in defeat and said, "All right, Alexander. We'll continue walking for a little bit longer, but not much longer. Fair enough?"
Alexander groaned after hearing the gemstone's compromise. Leave this area of wildlife? That was insubordination! However, that did not mean he could come back, could he? "All right, we'll walk a little more and a little longer."
If the Emerald could smile, that was what he would be doing; instead, he glowed a little more brightly to showcase his mood.
They walked (or, in the Emerald's perspective, floated) down the path and turned left, where they noticed a huge pathway that went straight ahead and closer to Hidden Palace and Angel Mountain. But on the right side, there was a small pathway that cut into the pine forest. It was not that wide, but big enough for Alexander to walk in.
Speaking of Alexander, seeing the path was enticing to him, and his curious turquoise eyes proved it.
"What is it, Alexander?" asked the Chaos Emerald as he floated at Alex's right.
"There's something associated with this little path here," replied Alexander and pointed at it with his right hand.
"So, it's a path," said the Emerald nonchalantly. "There's nothing special there, I believe."
"Your opinion, basically," Alexander replied, "but I'm not stopping now." And he ran down the side-path.
The Emerald wanted to call Alexander, but he held back; from his perspective, whenever he wanted to explore, there was no stopping him. Sighing frustratingly, the jewel entered the path and followed the teenager.
The pathway was not as wide as the main way back to the Hidden Palace. It was only about seven feet wide here, compared to thirty feet there. The pine trees towered above the ground, giving the impression that the trees were as tall as an average skyscraper. The dirt was dry and sandy, with specks of zinc glittering in the sunlight. And the green leaves spread out somewhat from above.
It was also very quiet, but not for long.
"What are you doing, Alexander?" seethed the Chaos Emerald in a low, impatient tone.
"Something about this path's making me curious," replied Alexander as he walked down a small hill.
"Let me guess, you were craving for more adventure, right?" the Chaos Emerald asked irritably.
"One of the reasons," replied Alexander with a gleam of eagerness in his eyes, "but there's something else, too."
If he could look at Alexander confusingly, that was precisely what the Chaos Emerald would give him. "Something else?"
"Mm-hmm," replied Alexander and looked at his floating comrade. "While approaching it, I smelled some kind of odor."
"Smelled something?" puzzled the Emerald.
Alexander nodded. "I'm not what it is, but it could be some form of perfume or something." With that, he looked ahead and continued to walk.
The Chaos Emerald followed right behind him, although he was confused by one thing.
"Smelled something? How can someone smell something?" he thought before sighing inwardly. "It must be a human thing, I suppose."
They both rounded a corner by turning left, and in front of them was a stairwell. The forty or so steps were made out of stone, the marble and zinc reflecting in the sunlight. Unfortunately, the steps looked very old, and it showed it – huge cracks were embedded in almost every one of them.
Alexander gulped at the sight. It was something that did not look so safe.
The Chaos Emerald noticed this as he floated alongside. "Maybe, it's best that we should retreat to the main area right now," he said.
"Perhaps," said Alexander, "but I still want to go down there." He put his right hand on his chin and asked himself, "But how to do that?" He hummed softly as he thought of an idea. What to do?
Aha! He had the perfect tool to do so— No. It would not be smart. The Emerald's power should only be tapped in wisely.
Oh, well. Maybe, he would go down there some other time.
"Let's go," said Alexander, and he proceeded to return to the entrance.
The Chaos Emerald followed him, his glow showing confusion. "Strange for you to not continue traveling to an area in a forest," he said with some surprise. "Why's that?"
"I didn't feel it's safe," was Alexander's straightforward reply.
"Good reason," said the Chaos Emerald. "One false step, and you'll tumble."
"You can say that again," said Alexander, reminiscing the times where he acted extremely clumsy. However, he quickly sported a sneaky smile. "But that doesn't mean I can't do it some other time, can't I?"
The Chaos Emerald had to guess that and grumbled crossly at how foolish he was to overlook it. There was no way that Alexander would give up that quickly without any sort of reason. "Thanks a lot, Alexander," he said exasperatedly.
"No problem," said Alexander, ignoring the jewel's tone.
Both of them would soon return to the main pathway, and they continued to stroll back towards Hidden Palace.
Coincidentally, neither of them wound up remembering to use Chaos Control to teleport them back to their destination.
The rest of the walk would be very quiet. Neither Alexander nor the Chaos Emerald spoke much, except a few mumbles now and then. All the while, Alexander continued to occasionally gaze at the scenery surrounding him and admiring it (something that was chagrining the Chaos Emerald to no end).
About a mile from their destination, they came across an area that they both recognized. On the ground were small craters, none smaller than the size of an average baby human's foot. In addition, a few pieces of burnt and broken metal were scattered all over the ground.
Alexander sighed morbidly at the sight. Fighting was looking more and more disturbing each and every day, even though no one bled in this battle. Battles… he definitely remembered in the one he was involved in. Several days ago, those Vamparrots chased him all the way to Ebony Trail, where they cut him open in various places. It gave him chills thinking about it—
But how was he able to fight them off? How was he able to defeat them all single-handedly when he was sure he was going to die? Those Vamparrots had him. He was lying unconscious on the soft ground of that dark mushroom forest, and they were going to steal the other Chaos Emerald… but he was able to fight them off somehow. How did it make sense? Where was any logic to this scenario? He just had to find out, he just had to!
"Alexander, are you okay?"
The Halbery child snapped out of his thoughts after hearing the Chaos Emerald. He shook his head and turned to the gem (who floated on his right).
"Sorry, I was thinking about something," apologized the human.
"Thinking about what?" wondered the Chaos Emerald, his aura dim out of confusion. Apparently, he did not detect his thoughts this time around
Alexander guessed that, and was about to tell him when the gemstone zoomed into his right hand.
"What is it?" Alexander asked.
He soon found out.
Alexander looked up and noticed Sonic walking toward him, and the Halbery child quickly responded by placing the gemstone back in the bag.
"Hi, Sonic," he said as the hedgehog arrived. "What are you doing here?"
"Getting rid of some the scrap metal that's still in this area," replied Sonic mournfully. Over his right shoulder was a shovel that had a wooden handle, and he was holding a metal bucket with the other.
"I have a guess that you don't like your job, huh?" said Alexander when he noticed Sonic's disappointed expression.
"You kiddin'?" exclaimed Sonic. "I HATE jobs like these!" Afterwards, he sighed and went into his usual calm manor. "Well, I better clean up right now."
"'Kay. See ya!" Alexander waved him "good-bye" with his right hand, walked passed Sonic, and headed towards the altar.
Once Alexander was out of earshot, Sonic took out his shovel and began to clean up, grumbling about why he had to do this chore in the first place!
It would be another ten minutes before Alexander arrived at the altar. He rounded the corner, walked over the bridge (but not without glaring at the sea-creature that was napping in the water), and he walked closer to the shrine. It felt great being back at the Hidden Palace once again. He had just walked several miles just to get here. Sure, he did that just to kill some time (as well as look at the scenery), but it was still a very long walk. And it was bound to feel tiring once it was all over.
As he reached the first step of the shrine, he noticed a very familiar Mobian up at the top, and it caused him to groan.
Knuckles the Echidna was looking down at Alexander, his arms were crossed in front of his chest, and his glaring aiming the human below; it was like a signal that said, "Get near the Master Emerald, and you will regret it."
Whatever his punishment might be if he got near, he did not want to know, so he sat on the first step, turned away from Knuckles (although he side-glanced the stubborn echidna now and then), and looked up at the sky above.
As for Knuckles, he was still looking in front of him with determined purple eyes. His dark irises looked ferocious, ones that could mentally penetrate the exterior of someone. Yet, they were filled with some worry. No, he was not worried about Alexander or him questioning not trusting him (if he did trust people he did not recognize, it would not be him). It was something else. The relentless attacks by Dr. Eggman had seemed to make Angel Island feel unsafe. With the Chaos Emerald in their grasp and the Master Emerald behind him, there was a hunch that the mad scientist could be after them. It looked like he was going to have to think about things a little later on.
Afterwards, everything became still both mentally and verbally, and later on, Sonic returned to the shrine, looking both cross and dirty.
"Let me guess, you're still steamed that you had to clean the road?" laughed Alexander.
"Don't ask," muttered Sonic and wiped the sweat off his blue fur with his tan left arm. "So, enjoying your time here?"
"A bit," replied Alexander and made a seesaw motion with his left hand. "So, when are Tails and Amy coming by?"
"They'll be back later this afternoon," replied Sonic. "Tails is still working on the Tornado. Apparently, it suffered more damage than previously thought."
"What kind of damage?" asked Alexander curiously.
"You got me," said Sonic with a shrug. "And if he did, I might be more confused than before. Machines are not really my ideal."
"I should say, since you're not used to fixing planes," teased a familiar boy's voice from above.
Both Sonic and Alexander looked up, and hovering above them was a smiling Tails, his right hand holding a wrench.
"How's the Tornado?" Sonic asked.
Tails slowly touched down on the ground and stood in front of the two. "The engine and upper-left wing need a little more repairing," he replied. "It's gonna be a few more days before the Tornado 2 can fly again."
"Bad luck," cringed Sonic.
"Tell me about it," sighed Tails and put his wrench away. He turned to Alexander and quipped, "I see that you're doing well."
"You can say that," said Alexander. "Just a long walk and helping Roquefort with disposing the dead mushrooms." The moment he said "mushrooms," he sighed sadly and looked down at the ground.
"You okay, kid?" wondered Sonic confusingly. "You're looking a little down."
Alexander quickly looked back up at them. "It's nothing," he fibbed and laughed nervously.
Both Sonic and Tails looked at each other, their expressions showing doubt, but they shrugged it off and walked to the top of the shrine, where they started talking to Knuckles.
Alexander did not turn to them as they walked past them. Instead, he remained focused at the sky above him as he started thinking.
He still felt a bit bitter after what happened at Mushroom Hill. He felt that the forest – let alone the entire island – did not deserve to be involved to be demolished. Curse Eggman and his robots. Curse them! Still, what was done was done, and thankfully, the forests were not completely harmed. Maybe, he should just take his own advice about forests when they were a bit demolished instead of wallowing in anger. Yes, that ought to be the case.
Conversely, it made him more eager to return to Mushroom Hill tomorrow.
The forest very far away looked marvelous this evening. The sky had golden streaks along the horizon, with specks of orange, red, brown, and black from the horizon up. Tall evergreen trees stood proudly in the sky, the sun's golden light giving them an extra touch of majesty. And several nocturnal creatures (from insects to various species of cats, bears, and whatnot) roamed through the foliage, hunting and scavenging for any food they could find.
It was a very quiet tonight. There were no sounds throughout the area. It would be a very fine place to live and explore, would it not?
Um, that answer would be an emphatic "no."
Deep within the underground hideouts in the territory, Eggman was sitting in his computer chair, but he did not too happy: He balled his fists, his bald head turned dark red, and he shouted from the top of his lungs.
"My Vamparrots failed to get the Chaos Emerald?" he blurted out.
"Unfortunately, yes," replied Bokkun, who was sitting on Eggman's right. "They were all destroyed when that human child harnessed the Chaos Emerald and its power."
Eggman growled loudly from Bokkun's report. It made him so cross that he wanted to scream as loud as he could and ram him, Decoe, and Bocoe with the biggest "How-to-become-the-world's-best-mad-scientist" book he had on the shelf; but he sighed exasperatedly instead.
"What will he do next, Bokkun?" he asked.
"While hiding from view, I heard him talking to a mosquito named Roquefort that they were going to explore more of Mushroom Hill tomorrow," the android-like robot replied.
"Thanks for the report, Bokkun," said the Doctor. "You can return to your quarters now."
Bokkun obliged with a nod, floated to the big door, opened it by pressing his hand on a gray actuator, and zoomed away.
Once the door closed itself, Eggman turned to Decoe and Bocoe, who were standing behind him.
"Decoe, Bocoe, I will have to say that I am disappointed in you," he said severely. "You did not help me create a robot strong enough to take both Chaos Emeralds. You did not do your job, and I really don't like it when robots failed their objectives.
"However… you did help me nab one of the Emeralds." He reached out with his left hand and took out the red Chaos that was in a pedestal. A huge toothy grin brandished his face, and a sinister glint twinkled on his blue glasses.
"So, you're NOT upset, Doctor?" asked Bocoe bewilderingly, who stood on Decoe's left.
"Not upset, only disappointed," replied Eggman solemnly while still looking at the Chaos Emerald.
"Wait a second," interrupted Decoe, causing Eggman to look over his left shoulder. "You gave credit to us, but wasn't it you who created the robots in the first place?"
Eggman ignored him as he placed the gemstone back into its pedestal. Just as he did so…
Both robots were caught off-guard by Eggman's sudden yell and nearly fell down as a result. "Yes, Doctor?" they asked hurriedly.
"Fetch me the cards from your quarters," he ordered. "I need a good versatile robot that can crush Sonic, his friends, and that human." He balled his left fist tightly.
"Right away, Eggman!" they replied, and they opened the huge door and left the room.
Five minutes later, they returned to the room carrying the plate and a huge deck of cards.
"Thanks," said Eggman and grabbed the cards with his right hand. "Hmm, let's see." He fanned the cards out and examined them. Which card should he choose? Which card was potent enough to stalk, conquer, and destroy?
"Aha!" he cried out and took out two cards from the middle of the deck. "These shall do the trick!"
The two robots looked over Eggman and gazed at the cards that he chose.
"Those are really good cards you chose," said Decoe and gazed at the designs. "Something tells me they are going to be very useful."
"That's why I designed them," said Eggman, his eyes still on the cards. "Once these are in action, Sonic and the others will be having a difficult time facing them."
The moment he was going to laugh, Bocoe interrupted.
"What is it, Bocoe?" Eggman turned to the robot over his left shoulder.
"Why did you choose this one?" he asked and pointed at the top of the two cards with his right hand. "He looks pretty useless, if you ask me."
Eggman glowered at him. "Are you questioning my decisions?"
Bocoe nearly slipped on the floor. "N-No, s-s-sir," he stammered, grease falling down each side of his head.
"Good," said Eggman sternly; he really hated when he was questioned. When he returned his attention to the cards in his hand, his gray eyes from behind his glasses looked like they were on fire.
"When this war is over, not only will I collect the Chaos Emeralds…" he whispered with an evil smile—
"AHH!" the robots cried and fell down, courtesy of Eggman slamming the sides of his fists hard on the computer-top.
"—I WILL CONQUER THE WORLD, AS WELL! HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!"
However, while he was laughing his head off, someone was listening to the conversation by pressing his or her right ear on the door. Chaos Emeralds, eh? They sounded like interesting artifacts, and from what he or she heard they were extremely precious. Hmm… It looked like it was time to pay Angel Island a little visit.
The rest of the day at Angel Island passed along without any incident.
After everyone had returned to Hidden Palace, they all ate quietly. It was quite pleasant for all of them, for once. No robots and no Eggman invading the precious island and disturbing the peace and tranquility in this sacred land. In addition, no more cleaning up the forests and removing every piece of metal. It was about time that they caught a break.
Once nightfall occurred, everyone at the altar closed their eyes and went to sleep, dreaming contently because of the serenity that finally fell onto this island.
Everyone was indeed asleep, except one.
Knuckles stood at the top of the shrine, his eyes fixated on the ground below. He looked at the left-hand side and saw Sonic, Tails, and Amy sleeping near the stairs. Although he rarely did this, he held back a chuckle once he noticed Sonic muttering about wanting a twenty-foot chilidog.
"Silly Sonic," he thought light-heartedly. "Whenever he wants a chilidog, run for the hills."
Afterwards, he looked on the right side and saw Alexander sleeping on the grass, his travel bag being used as a pillow. Knuckles glowered with annoyance at the little human. He had been such a troublemaker, in his view. He not only nearly touched the Master Emerald a few days ago, but he also left the premises without his knowledge and subsequently became a magnet for trouble. Other than Sonic, he never really enjoyed having anyone who had been (or currently were) targets for Eggman or any other known antagonist.
"This kid has been a really huge magnet for Eggman," he thought. "Wherever he goes, Eggman targets him. I'm surprised that he's actually still alive." His eyes relaxed, but they were still sharp within his exterior calmness. "Nevertheless, I am still disappointed in him for knowingly walking out without any escort, and I'm certain that he'll do it again." A cross sigh followed. "I'll have to talk to Sonic regarding that child's recklessness tomorrow morning."
Afterwards, he looked away from the group and stared at the Master Emerald that was in its pedestal. "I've really had it with Eggman and him attacking my island. If he even DARES to try to attack, I'm gonna give him a pounding he won't forget."
Knuckles looked at the Master Emerald a little too soon, unfortunately.
Tired eyes opened, and Alexander let out a very loud yawn. The bright sunlight immediately hit his turquoise eyes, and he gasped as a result. Some repetitive blinks later, and he was able to see very clearly. The sky was bright blue, with no cloud in sight; and the sun shone brightly.
He stretched to let the blood circulate through his body, sat up, and looked at the surroundings.
"Good morning, Alexander," said the Chaos Emerald, his voice ringing within Alexander's head.
The Halbery child grunted in annoyance. He did not need that voice echo in his brain now. "Nice way to ruin a good morning," he muttered crossly.
"You're upset to see little ol' me?" taunted the Emerald.
Alexander groaned inwardly from the gemstone's snarky teasing. "Very funny," he thought, annoyed.
The jewel chuckled from Alexander's cross actions. "Sorry, Alexander. I have a knack when it came to jumping from behind."
"You think?" said Alexander telepathically and rolled his eyes. When he looked up at the sky, he abruptly changed the subject and added aloud, "It looks like it's gonna be a great day today."
The human got to his feet, grabbed his travel bag, and looked at the stream in front of him. Freedom was down that direction, and he was a few feet away from exiting the shrine.
"Just where do you think you're going?"
The moment he walked towards the bridge, a masculine voice boomed at his direction. Alexander turned around and noticed Knuckles staring directly at him.
"I'm meeting Roquefort at Mushroom Hill, Knuckles," replied Alexander.
"Not without someone by your side," Knuckles answered back and crossed his arms over his chest. "Remember, I'm keeping a watch on you until that portal reopens. You'll be having a guardian with you until you meet up with Roquefort along the way."
Alexander sighed and grumbled, but did not argue. Whenever Knuckles made up his mind, there was nothing he could do to change his mind.
"All right, Knuckles. I'll take a guardian," he sighed begrudgingly. "So who will be going with me?"
"Sonic will go with you," said Knuckles straightforwardly, his arms still crossed over his chest, and he flashed his violet irises at the half-naked evergreen tree.
Alexander followed the echidna's gaze and looked at the tree, which was located at the left side of the path. The tree was almost bare, with only pine leaves locating at the sequoia's canopy.
Knuckles's gaze proved to be true, because Sonic was standing merely a foot or two away from the tree.
"I've already talked with him regarding this, and he has agreed to go with you until Roquefort picks you up," Knuckles said specifically. "Although he tried to talk himself out of it," he added in thought.
Alexander moaned from the echidna's reaction – so much for a good morning.
Sighing out of annoyance, he walked away from Knuckles and was soon at Sonic's right.
"Ready to go, kiddo?" asked the male hedgehog.
"I guess so," said Alexander.
Moments later, both Sonic and Alexander said "good-bye" to Knuckles (although Alexander did it hesitantly), and they walked away.
The moment they disappeared around the bend, Knuckles collapsed his arms and sighed, but he did not let go of his authoritative state.
"I hope that troublesome kid doesn't get into more trouble," he thought aloud and walked back to the shrine.
Several minutes passed, and nothing was said during their walk to Mushroom Hill. They had trekked out off the forest and have already passed by the area where Sonic himself, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy had battled Eggman and that humongous bomb. Afterwards, it was merely nothing except a quiet walk towards Mushroom Hill. Nothing excited around them, just tranquility and boredom (especially in Sonic's point of view; if it was possible, he would have yawned his way to Mushroom Hill).
"Sometimes, I wish there is a robot here—" muttered Sonic under his breath.
"Pardon me?" Alexander looked down at his right.
Sonic looked up at Alexander. "I'm just bored," he said. "There's no action around this island, and when there's no action, I get really bored." He yawned widely, but covered it with his right hand. "I'm really itching for action."
Alexander raised his right eyebrow. "What kind of action?"
"Well, either fighting one of Eggman's robots or running at high speed," said Sonic. "It really gets my blood going."
Alexander hummed attentively as he turned away from Sonic and looked at the trees at his left. "You must have a very wild life out there, Sonic," he said.
Sonic shrugged absentmindedly. "If you say so."
Despite being minute, the conversation brightened Alexander's mood a little bit. Now, he was no longer in a bit of a somber mood, and the environment became much more pleasant. To be frank, he would like to talk to Sonic a little more, and possibly get to know him a little more. But he decided not to do that: Even though he did not like teasing, it was fun seeing Sonic bored and ramble speeches about yearning for danger and excitement. It seemed that a good friendship was underway.
He would have to think about it a little later, because they arrived at Horseshoe Gate about an hour later. Sure enough, Roquefort was waiting for them.
"Hi, Sonic. Hi, Alexander." The mosquito made a "hello" wave with his right hand.
"Hey, Roquefort," replied Sonic before turning to Alexander. "This is the end of the line for me. Ciao!" And he disappeared up the path before Alexander – or anyone – could respond.
Alexander desired to quip regarding Sonic's quick retreat, but he decided to forgo it. Instead, he turned to Roquefort and stiltedly said, "So… are we ready to go?
"I don't see why not," Roquefort replied, and they walked across the planes of the Autumn Mushroom Forest.
The tour was quiet, but very peaceful. Both the human and the Mobian had explored the plateau, looking at the various fungi whenever they came across them. The mushrooms sprouted in various areas of the section (per usual), and they all ranged from five to twenty feet, definitely not as tall as the ones from Summer Mushroom Hill. The caps were either dark blue with light blue spots or vice-versa, and the trunks were a little browner than their (much) warmer relatives.
Heavens, mushrooms and mushrooms were everywhere. A paradise found in an area above the ocean rather than on it. An oddity that was only found in Mobius rather than in a proper dimension… like Earth. Tranquility, serenity, and the like – it was all there. And for once, it was not taken away nor was it disrupted from any vile, insubordinate, despicable, disgusting sneak attack!
Of course, Alexander enjoyed his little trek in the Autumn section. It was nice seeing all the fungi around him. Tall, wavy plants that swayed in the gentle breeze were a part of the wildlife that he always enjoyed.
"Great time for peace again," muttered Alexander to himself. Usually, a mutter would mean anger or desire to plot something back at those he loathed, but not this case. He was enjoying it all, and the smile on his face said it all… or did it? Oh, well.
"Why am I not surprised?" retorted the Chaos Emerald, his snippy voice echoing within Alexander's cranium.
"Oh, great. Not this again." Alexander's frustrated thoughts were followed by a disgruntled sigh. If the Emerald was kept quiet for one minute… No, he would need it for assistance, just in case.
"I'm a Chaos Emerald, not a toy, kid," responded the Chaos Emerald severely. He was not going to allow any form of backtalk whatsoever. How hypocritical: He was being the jerk first!
"Sorry, I was just a bit annoyed with you in my head again," said Alexander. "That and I don't want to have an argument right now." A scowl and a glare to nothing but air quickly followed.
The talk was supposed to continue, but Roquefort interrupted them.
"Are you doing okay?" he asked while looking over his left shoulder.
Alexander relaxed his – to Roquefort's view – silly glare, replaced it with a calm expression, and turned to the mosquito. "I'm doing fine," he replied.
Roquefort was not so sure, and his doubtful voice showcased it. "Are you sure? From your angry expression, it sounded as if you were holding some sort of grudge."
Alexander's face froze. Oh-no! Did he catch Alexander talking telepathically to the Chaos Emerald? He was in major trouble. Maybe not…
"N-No-Nothing, Roquefort," he stammered and waved it off dismissively with his left hand. "It was nothing."
Roquefort raised his right eyebrow (if he had one). "Are you sure it was nothing?" he wondered confusingly. An inquiring mind had to know, eh? Unfortunately, he was not going to get it.
"I'm sure," Alexander replied both forcefully and nervously.
Roquefort retained his doubtful look, but he shrugged and looked ahead.
Alexander quietly sighed in relief. "That was TOO close," he thought.
"Agreed," the gemstone's voice concurred.
Alexander made no telepathic comeback this time.
Unknown to them, the creak far in the background quaked, but just a bit.
The exploration in the Autumn section ended an hour later, as they walked through an underground tunnel, similar to the Cosmic Cave. It was about twenty feet wide and thirty feet high, plenty of room for both of them to walk, especially side by side (if they wanted to). The walls and ceiling contained various minerals, particularly quartz and zinc; and it glimmered dimly in the faint light from the two ends. And the light dark brown ground was mixed with small gray rocks.
Roquefort watched ahead, while Alexander looked around. While there was not much light (not yet, anyway), it still looked beautiful. The tunnel felt serene and looked inviting, and with the sparkling around, it did not even matter that the place was gray. Well… as gray as gray could be. Then again, color did not matter in the first place, now did it?
As they reached the other side, Alexander looked ahead, and when they finally exited, he gasped.
Green mushrooms were everywhere! Short ones, tall ones, thin ones, fat ones, Big caps, big stalks, small caps, small stalks, whichever size they each varied.
The green fungi of the Spring Mushroom Forest were indeed a jungle. It was not your typical jungle, for it was not so muggy. It felt a bit mild with a bit of a cold crisp in the air. The wind from the habitat was like the average mid-spring day in some areas, possibly 60 to 65 degrees, but not higher or lower.
However, the mushrooms told the tale of the environment. They ranged from ten to forty feet in height, and five to fifteen feet in diameter. The wobbly, but firm and flexible, trunks were dark gray, about as gray as the bottom of a thundercloud. The stalks looked very shiny, despite how gloomy the color was, and the sunlight's reflection showcased it extremely faintly as various specks of light indistinctly ricocheted off the stipes and onto the soft, three-foot-long, chrome-colored grass below. The pilei differed in size, too: The dimensions of each cap fluctuated within fifteen to sixty feet in diameter, and the "hats" were either bright green with dark green spots or dark green with bright green spots.
Both Alexander and Roquefort were currently standing on a small but slippery hill, and the dark grass was beating up their legs, although the wind was very calm. The fungi – big or little, it made no difference – lined in rows along each side, and it swayed in the wind. Above them, the bright blue, cloudless sky no longer existed. Instead, ominous light gray clouds hung overhead, and they swirled in quick fashion – well, as quick as an average cloud would alter forms, to correctly state. The bottoms were dark gray, and they hypothetically screamed "incoming storm."
While Roquefort's gaze was calm (as if he was used to it, which he was, but that was another story), Alexander was ecstatic. Sure, his external expression looked both calm and surprised, but internally, he was excited. The spring section looked splendid. It looked quiet, serene, and peaceful. Oh, heavens, he could not even wait to explore the area, and he was not going to let the rain stop him.
"The usual Alexander I know," thought the Chaos Emerald irritably. Oh, how he wished to bring Alexander down to Earth and make him think about taking care of business that was even more important than exploring Mushroom Hill. Wait a minute. What was this business anyway? Never mind.
Roquefort glanced at his left and smiled faintly. "I can sense that you like this place already?" he said, teasing minutely.
Alexander possibly brought himself down to Earth by looking down and looking at the mosquito. "'Like' doesn't even describe how much I like this place."
"How typical of you to think like that," thought the Emerald, his mood souring quicker than the anger of a powerful tornado. Oh, how he wanted this exploration to end soon; he was getting tired of it already!
"Shall we continue our exploration, Alexander?" asked Roquefort.
Alexander was looking down the hill when he heard Roquefort tell him that. He turned to him and nodded with a positive hum.
"Okay then," said Roquefort and grabbed Alexander's right arm with his left hand. "But it will be slippery," he added once seeing Alexander's shocked expression.
The child calmed down right away. "All right, then," he finalized.
Afterwards, they started walking down the hill. The knoll indeed proved to be very slippery. Both of them wound up slipping a little bit because of stepping on some really wet grass. Furthermore, small rocks and pebbles hid within the turf, so they had to be even more careful when climbing down this slope.
Finally, both made it to the bottom. They had slipped a little bit more, of course, but they were not injured at all; only a few wet spots on the feet, ankles, hands, and feet were the results. As before, nothing was going to stop them from reaching the bottom. Nothing!
"Are we ready to continue exploring, Alexander?" said Roquefort.
"I hope so," thought the Chaos Emerald in an ill-mannered tone.
"I don't see why not," was Alexander's simple reply.
Afterwards, they started walking straight ahead…
…But not until Alexander stepped his right foot on a slippery rock, causing him to fall flat on his face.
Mentally cursing to himself, he raised his head a little and spat some leaves out of his mouth. "…Ouch," he groaned monotonously.
"That's what you get for not watching where you're going instead of DOING YOUR JOB!" The Chaos Emerald's voice from within his head went from an "I told you so" sarcastic remark to a cross yell.
"Oh, shut up," grumbled Alexander telepathically, his mood becoming extremely sour.
However, he calmed himself down, got to his feet, and proceeded to explore the region with Roquefort by his side.
When they were several yards away, the small black rock that embedded itself within the rock rattled violently. But it was not strong enough to catch their attention.
At one-and-a-half miles in perimeter, Spring Mushroom Forest was the second-biggest section of Mushroom Hill, as well as the wettest. Dark gray grass covered the covered the wet black mud, the blades glossy with droplets of water as rainwater splattered onto the ground. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of green-capped mushrooms stood tall and proud above everything, whether they were on the border or within.
Of the 90 acres the spring sector contained, the field within was 75 acres. The meadow was flat like a board, only a few small banks now and then. A few long dandelions sprouted from the grass and waved softly in the wind, similar to what the zephyr did to the grass. The plains were also in the shape of a pointy-ended oval. When they exited the tunnel, the fungi were virtually side-by-side. Now, the borders had spread in opposite directions, and the clusters were close to becoming nothing except mere skylines in the background.
Speaking of the mushrooms, they stood in various areas of the meadow. Several of the stalks were no wider than ten feet, and they shined in the faint light. Raindrops bounced off their green hats, rolled down the side, and either hung along the rim or fell onto the grass below. Nevertheless, the exotic mushrooms appeared to be glossy with dew, "appeared" being the key word.
Wait a minute. That foreign rumble was not part of the scenery… It was probably nothing.
Unfortunately, they did not notice the small quake as they continued exploring.
Roquefort was okay with the rain. Alexander, however, was a different story.
"Stupid rain," he muttered crossly after slipping on some wet gray grass and falling on his back.
"The rain's giving you a hard time, huh?" wondered Roquefort as he reached out his left hand.
Alexander accepted the offering and pulled himself to his feet again. "Very," he replied and shook his hands to force the wet mud off his palms. "But the rain doesn't seem to give you any trouble."
"I've been here all my life, and I'm used to harsh weather, especially in this territory," replied Roquefort. "It's very rare for Spring Mushroom Forest to have a rain-free day."
"But I thought if it keeps on raining, the dirt and soil will erode," interjected Alexander.
"That may be true, but the rain doesn't usually pour in big buckets," replied Roquefort. "Remember, your world may be different from mine."
"I see," said Alexander and looked down. His eyes then quickly rounded as he turned back to Roquefort. "Wait a sec. How do you know about my world?"
"Amy told me," was Roquefort's simple answer.
"Ah," comprehended Alexander, and the topic ended.
As they continued trekking, the clouds started bawling as it began to rain even harder. The wind, which was soft before, occasionally gusted, making it difficult for both of them to remain standing. The stems swerved violently to the left – the direction the wind and rain traveled. Thank heavens the stipes were sturdy.
As for the rainfall, it began to pour in buckets, as what Roquefort described it: The rainfall hardened drastically, and the cloud bases blackened ominously. In addition, thunder clapped nearby, making the trip hazardous.
Alexander – in a completely wet mess – described the solution perfectly.
"We better find some shelter quickly," he shivered while hugging himself tightly.
Again, Roquefort was used to the harsh environment that was the thunderstorm, but others came first.
And the huge beat-down of water on the top of his hairy head only made his decision resolute.
"I like that idea," he replied and shook his head in a brisk pace. It did not really work, for his head quickly refilled with the heavy water. It was a nice try, though.
Afterwards, they started running while trying to cover their heads with their arms. No use, though, as the rain fell on an angle and drenched their faces.
A few moments later, Roquefort recalled something… and was splashed in the nose with a huge raindrop to go with it.
"I know a place where we can sit under 'til the rain lets up," he said suddenly while looking ahead, his sharp nose dripping with rainwater. "If we can run quickly, we can arrive in a couple of minutes."
"Then, let's go," exclaimed Alexander, his left arm and head soaked, "because I'm getting really tired of this darn storm!"
Roquefort nodded, and they ran quicker than ever before.
Their timing was perfect, because a few minutes later, they noticed a mushroom that was oddly low in height. Sure, it was about fifteen feet high with a four-foot wide stipe, but the gigantic dark green pileus was what made this low mushroom distinctive.
In a logical stance, most hats in Mushroom Hill would be no bigger than fifteen feet with such a stem that was so skinny. Instead, the hat was 90 feet in diameter. Yes, that was correct, 90 feet in diameter. With a pileus this humongous, it was miraculous that the stalk had yet collapsed. So, what was the secret that kept the cap suspended like this?
Wait and see. Or not—
Alexander had only caught a glimpse of this unusual mushroom, and he thought it was beautiful right away. But before he could think about gazing at it even more, his mind immediately clicked.
"Oh… yeah. Get to dry ground first."
They ran closer and closer to the fungi, when a lightning bolt suddenly crashed a few yards off to the right. Then, the thunderclap boomed. They had to get to safety. They had to!
And they did.
They ran under the mushroom and collapsed onto the dry gray grass. Panting, panting, and more panting escaped their system as air filled into their lungs.
In a few moments, they no longer gasped for air and got into a sitting position.
Both were at a loss of words, a trend involving the two of them.
Finally, someone spoke…
"Well… that was tiring," was all Roquefort could say.
"You don't say," said Alexander, half-sarcastically, half-jokingly. "I'm still wiped out from all that running."
"Then why are you crouched down instead of lying flat on your back?" teased Roquefort.
"It doesn't matter," said Alexander, his breathing still a bit hoarse. "My energy's depleted right now."
A loud clap of thunder crashed nearby, quaking the ground ferociously; and both Alexander and Roquefort yelped out of surprise. The argument was long forgotten.
"So, we're stuck here for now, aren't we?" asked Alexander, still shaken up from the thunderclap.
"Well, there's nowhere else to go with this storm around," said Roquefort and placed his arms on his legs. "So, the answer's pretty much a 'yes.'"
"Just as I thought," replied Alexander and showed off his fatigue by plopping onto the pillowy grass.
"Ah, much better," he thought afterwards and looked at his left arm. His sleeve was so soaked it stuck on his skin. "Maybe not THAT much better," he added in thought.
Roquefort guessed Alexander's antics, and he should know how he felt, too; his thick red-brown fur was soaking wet, and rainwater still dripped off the sides of his nose. They had to get dry, and Roquefort had all he needed.
As Alexander looked at his drenched arm, a cup bounced off his knuckles and landed on the dry ground. It was when he picked it up to what he knew was occurring.
"Well, I am a little thirsty."
"That's half of it," began Roquefort and brandished a cup himself. Then, without warning, he punctured the mushroom's trunk with his pointy nose. Silver liquid poured out from within thee trunk and onto the ground, and Roquefort quickly placed the cup under the "fountain."
Once the liquid reached the rim, he carefully pulled the cup towards and told Alexander, "You better hurry up before the opening closes."
The Halbery child responded by quickly placing his own cup under the liquid.
The crack closed by the time the shiny sap reached the rim.
Alexander carefully brought the cup to him and looked at the silvery sap. "I wonder what this sap does," he said while looking at his reflection.
Roquefort sipped some of the fluid. "That's something you have to figure out," he said with concealment.
"Well, that helps," muttered Alexander and carefully took a sip.
All the while, the storm continued brewing.
Alexander sighed after finishing his drink.
"I take it that you're much better, huh?" smiled Roquefort. He had finished his drink a few minutes earlier, and was now leaning on the base of the mushroom's trunk.
"You bet that it did," Alexander replied with a bit of a lisp. "Although my tongue's still burning a little."
"Well, I did say that the Spring Mushroom's contents are gonna burn your mouth if you drank too much of it at once," Roquefort stated.
"Yeah… after I took too much of a gulp," interjected the Halbery child with a cross stare.
Roquefort began to chuckle. "And you now feel the wrath of the warmth of its contents."
"Two-hundred and twelve degrees of warmth," added Alexander before looking at his arms and legs. "At least, the fluid helped me dry off faster."
"Now you don't have to spend a couple of hundred Mobiums at a far-away dry cleaners," joked Roquefort.
Alexander found himself laughing, but quieted himself for some reason. "What are 'Mobiums'?"
"The main money for Mobians," the mosquito told him.
"Ah," Alex said, then looked ahead, and watched the rain plummet to the ground below. "Very nasty weather out there, isn't it?"
Roquefort looked away from him and keenly watched the raindrops fall before him. "I agree with you there," he said, "and I'm really surprised that this occurred, too. The weather rarely gets very inclement. Just a long, light rain shower is what you would usually see here."
A lightning bolt struck behind them.
"And I can bet thunder and lightning are even more rare," quipped Alexander with a bit of a joke.
"Once in a moonless night," said Roquefort straightforwardly, missing the tease.
Alexander then scooted himself to the stipe and leaned on it. "Looks like we're stuck for now."
Roquefort replied with a nod as he kept his gaze on the rainy plains ahead.
Alexander, however, put his hands behind his head and decided to look up at the mushroom's underside. Above him, the stem had spread itself and grappled onto the pileus like roots cementing a tree in the soil. In addition, he could see white lamellae contracting and retracting, like a person's chest when inhaling and exhaling.
A sigh followed. It was such calmness under this mushroom, a big contradiction because of the nasty thunderstorm around it. I mean, look around him. Thunder clapped harder than a hammer hitting a wall at 100 miles-per-hour, rainwater darted towards the ground below, and if he listened closely (something he was not doing), he could hear a cloud bawling in the background. Surely, anyone who had the nerve to waltz out there would be soaked so much that he or she would never want to bathe again. Thank heavens Roquefort showed him this mushroom just in time… or was it just a little too late? Nonetheless, they were here, the storm was out there, and that was all that mattered.
Alexander hummed questioningly. A growl? He did not recall ever hearing that before. But a shrug of his shoulders resulted following some quick thinking.
"It's probably nothing," he concluded in thought as he continued to look up at the gills.
There it was again! This time, the ground softly rumbled to go with it.
Once again, he shrugged his shoulders. "It might be just my mind playing tricks on me," he thought, "I think."
His eyes nearly popped out as the growl loudened and the ground quaked. Now, he was starting a worry a little; if it was nothing, then why did the low noises refuse to stop?
"I can sense your thoughts, Alexander," said the Chaos Emerald, his voice echoing within Alexander's brain.
Alexander groaned from the voice again, but it was not the time to sulk. A telepathic talk was in order.
"I had a guess you did," replied Alexander as he closed his eyes and subsequently went to the subject. "This strange rumbling is starting to become suspicious."
"What do you mean?"
"I just heard it while I lied here. At first, I thought it was nothing. Then, I heard it again. Not once, but twice." He toyed with a strand of hair on the back of his head. "Something's screwy, if you ask me."
Silence fell, but not for long.
"To be honest, I'm not quite sure what's going on. It could be the storm, I assume."
"Or, it could be one of Eggman's robots," Alexander challenged.
From within the bag, the Emerald's aura darkened. "Of course. Eggman's robots could be a cause to this… And I bet he's more than willing to try to capture me if that's what he's doing."
"But why would he try to come after you again?" wondered Alexander. "Should he know that there are five other Chaos Emeralds floating around?"
"Again, don't ever forget about Eggman, Alex," the Emerald interrogated. "He can be really stubborn whenever he wants to be."
"I can tell," Alex snorted, recalling the previous attacks by the Doctor himself.
The child broke off contact with the Chaos Emerald at once, and turned to Roquefort.
"What is it, Roquefort?" he asked, his eyes now open.
The Mobian insect was still looking in front of him, but a smile was etched across his face.
"Look around you," he advised.
And Alexander did just that. While the clouds remained, the rain stopped falling, and sunlight broke through the fluffy, yet ominous, gray formations.
"When did the rain stop?" he wondered, still looking around.
"About a minute ago," came the reply before turning to Alexander on his right. "So, how was your nap?"
Alexander stopped suddenly after hearing his friend say that. "Excuse me?" he queried as he turned to Roquefort, his expression looking stiff.
"From the corner of my eye, I noticed your eyes closed," Roquefort replied as his eyes flashed with some concern.
Alexander internally froze with panic. He had to think of an excuse and fast! He wound up getting one quicker than expected.
"Well, I felt a little tired, and wanted to relax for a moment," he fibbed and laughed nervously.
Roquefort looked confused from Alexander's titter, but shrugged it off again.
"Oh… okay…" he said slowly.
Alexander made no reply. "That was cutting it close," he thought. Well, his secret was still – what else? – a secret.
Nevertheless, he still had to tell Roquefort something.
"Roquefort, I have a question I like to ask you."
"What is it?" asked Roquefort and turned to the child.
"A few minutes ago, I not only heard a low, menacing growl, but I felt the grass beneath shake." He unclasped his hands and placed them on the gray grass. "I wonder if you sensed it, too."
Roquefort shook his head adamantly. "No, haven't noticed any of it…"
Alexander, once again, made no reply as he looked up once again.
"I felt and heard it, but he didn't?" he thought. "Strange…"
A stiff gawk followed once hearing the growl again. "Maybe not so strange," he added in thought and turned to Roquefort, who was standing again. "You finally heard it, I believe."
Roquefort nodded, his irises firm. "Yep, I did, and I felt it, too; and it's nearby, I might add."
Alexander sprang to his feet at once and backed up to where their backs touched. "This is not good," he muttered.
"I agree," Roquefort replied, "and it doesn't sound like it's a 'what,' either."
Alexander looked at him with a bit of a shocked expression.
Roquefort knew what Alexander thought and nodded in reply. "So, keep your eyes peeled."
And, so, they did, as they looked side-to-side to find this mysterious culprit. So far, he could not be spotted.
There it went again. The growl became even louder, and the ground rumbled furiously.
They gasped again and continued to look around. Whatever it was—
The growl loudened even more, and the ground quaked violently. Unlike Roquefort, Alexander lost his balance from the shaking, and he fell onto the ground.
"Are you all right?" Roquefort asked in a quick pace.
"Yeah, I'm fine," replied Alexander, and he stood up and moved his eyes back and forth. "Do you think it's nearby?"
"I've a good guess that it is," the mosquito answered sharply.
Alexander looked back with a bit of confusion. "Since when did Roquefort talk so harshly and determinedly?"
"Take a guess," the Emerald said with authority, his voice reverberating in Alexander's head.
He ignored the annoying echo and followed it with a struggling blink. "…Oh, I see what you mean." Afterwards, he cleared his throat and continuing to "find" the culprit.
However, several minutes would pass by, and something queer would occur during their protective stance:
The growling seemed to stop.
Yes, that was right. It stopped. No snarl, no roar, nothing, and the rumbling of the ground stopped along with it.
Alexander relaxed and looked at Roquefort from the corner of his left eye. "This is strange," he said. "For some time, we heard this menacing snarl, and now, it's gone."
Roquefort nodded, his gaze still stiff. "It's a bit strange, I'll have to say. Usually, when I hear something this dark, it won't stop."
Alexander turned his head to Roquefort. "So, you've heard something like this before?"
Roquefort nodded. "I've heard it a year or two ago. I went to try to find it, but was unable to."
"So, now, it has come back," finished the human child.
"Very likely," Roquefort answered. "And I don't think it has left, either, so keep your guard on."
Alexander made an "mm-hmm" sound and did exactly what Roquefort instructed.
But as he did so…
…He placed his left index finger into his mouth.
"Are you okay, Alexander?" asked Roquefort while peaking behind him.
Alexander pulled his finger away and shook it ferociously. "I'll be fine; something bit me, that's all."
No, that was not all…
The growling returned. This time, it echoed from where they were. Furthermore, Alexander lost his balance once more… not to mention briefly rubbing his head with his left head.
"Don't worry, I'll be fine," Alexander interrupted before Roquefort could ask him anything. Just as he got to his feet, he yelped in pain again. "My aching head," he moaned.
Not wanting to hear any more stubbornness, Roquefort turned to Alexander. "I think you should sit down until your head gets better," he suggested, his voice kind yet firm.
Alexander wanted to object, but decided to give up instead. "Maybe you're right, Roquefort." A frustrated sigh escaped his system, and he went to sit on the grass. The moment he did, though, he yelped out of pain once again.
"Stupid thing won't stop biting me!" he groaned under his breath as he continued to scratch his head with his left hand.
Roquefort's antennae perche, and he turned to the Halbery child. There was no way he was not going to let any form of murmuring slither away unnoticed. "Excuse me?" he wondered.
Although he did not look up, Alexander knew that the mosquito was looking down at him. And the phrase he used made him guess that he was concerned, too.
"There's something in my hair that's biting me," winced Alexander, still scratching his hair.
Roquefort pondered internally. Something was biting Alexander? That was odd… Might as well have a look…
"Let me see," insisted the insect and crouched down, "but you must stop scratching first."
Alexander complied and put his hand down on the ground.
"Now, let's see…" muttered Roquefort as he started examining Alexander's hair. He carefully touched it, trying to find anything strange that swam deep in the human's scalp.
He did not have to look for very long, for he felt something on a strange of hair on the back of Alexander's head.
"Found it," he whispered and grabbed it with his right index and middle fingers. However, as he pulled it out…
…The pest vanished.
Roquefort grumbled under his breath as a result of its escape. Oh, well. Better luck next time.
"You okay now, Alex?" he asked and got to his feet.
Alexander followed suit. From Roquefort's reaction, he already knew that he criminal escaped, but decided to keep quiet on it, nevertheless.
"Yeah, I'm fine now," the human replied and touched his scalp again. "Jeez! What was that thing that won't stop nipping me?"
Roquefort shrugged. "Don't know. He escaped before I had the chance to find out."
Alexander quickly had a thought. Illogical, yes, but it was a thought, nonetheless. "Do you think that what bit me was the source of what was going on?"
"I doubt it, but it's a possibly."
"Well, let's hope it is, then," finished Alexander and grinned, "because I want to get back to exploring."
"Me, too," laughed Roquefort, and they walked passed the stipe, attempting to exit the mushroom.
…A loud, menacing, earth-shaking growl reverberated throughout the area.
Alexander almost fell forward, but Roquefort quickly grabbed his left arm.
"Don't mention it," Roquefort responded and released his grip once Alexander regained his balance.
But he had to grab Alexander's arm once again as the snarl sounded a lot more like a thunderous roar.
"Thanks again," he said with a sigh.
Roquefort nodded with a hum before gasping out of surprise.
The low growl returned, but Alexander did not fall this time.
Suddenly, he noticed Roquefort's antennae twitch and turned his head sharply. "What is it, Roquefort?"
"Somebody's coming," came his sharp reply.
The Halbery child gasped from Roquefort's response.
"I thought you'd react like that," said Roquefort, his antennae moving erratically. A frown was then etched across the bottom of his snout. "And I'm pretty sure that it was responsible for all that growling lately."
Alexander wanted to reply, but the Chaos Emerald interrupted.
"I believe him, Alexander," he said, his voice calm yet anxious.
"Are you sure?" asked Alexander, his voice both telepathic and doubtful.
"I'm very sure, Alex," replied the gemstone's voice seriously. "Its presence is extremely strong." And, before Alexander could say something in return, the jewel added, "It should be nearby."
Boy, was he right, and in more ways than one, too.
Suddenly, an odd sound was heard, causing everyone (even the Chaos Emerald in Alexander's bag) to gasp out of fright.
"What's going on?" asked Roquefort anxiously while moving his head erratically.
"I don't know, Roquefort," replied Alexander, feeling a little timid from the non-human rumbling. "And I wish I don't want to find out, either," he whimpered in thought.
"Unfortunately, it's likely you're gonna have to face it," went in the Emerald's voice, his small aura glowing within the bag.
Alexander sighed, knowing he might be right. "Pretty likely," he responded back.
"Pretty likely" turned out to be a huge understatement, for they subsequently heard a low growl.
Roquefort's left antenna twitched once he heard it, apparently detecting the location of the voice. Not wanting to wait, he turned around and looked at the direction of the tunnel.
Once he did, however, his face suddenly froze.
Alexander noticed it and turned to him. "What's wrong?" he asked confusingly.
Roquefort pointed with his right hand.
Alexander followed it and gasped at the sight, too.
In front of them was a large black-haired creature on his fours. If he was standing, he would be possibly ten feet tall, but he was not, so he was a little shorter. His face looked a lot like a cat's. Triangular ears were on the top of his head, a bristle of white fur sticking up in the air. Small yellow eyes locked down malevolently, like the duo was his prey. The black triangular nose on the end of its bridge wiggled like a rabbit. White whiskers and eyebrows protruded out from his cheeks and above his eyes, respectively. A tongue wrapped itself across his lips, if he had any. His body was slender and agile-looking. Long, sleek black fur covered his chest and stomach, the sparse light shining across his right side. A long, rat-like, black-and-white tail swayed back and forth like a zebra swung it to shoo away annoying insects. His legs looked thin, but very strong. Not a lot of meat was on it, but like the cat itself, the bones appeared to be very firm and healthy.
However, there was something interesting on him. No, it was not how he looked (although his black body looked splendid), but what was on his neck, leg, and head. A small golden crown was on his head, and it was carved into the model of a closed-mouthed cobra. Wrapped around his neck and his abdomen was a silky sand-colored cape. The red shade was compared to a dark crimson, something that the sparse light reflected strongly. Its fat trimming was beige, and it contained specks of electrum. Finally, a golden armlet was wrapped around the bottom of his left leg, pieces of carnelian and lapis lazuli inlaid in it.
The cat-like creature looked at them ominously and growlingly, but kept his distance. He then walked around the stem and was soon standing about ten feet from them. Despite acting very evil, he looked like a gentle folk. There was no provocation, no motion for any attack. It was as if he was curious and wanted to inspect them.
It would not be very calm for long…
The creature reached his head back and roared loudly and furiously. Its noise echoed like a loud voice bouncing off the walls of a tunnel, and everything quaked violently – from the ground, to the mushrooms, even to the clouds overhead.
"AAHHHH!" cried out the duo of Alexander and Roquefort, and they covered their hearing ears and antennae (depending on which creature had them). While the artificial earthquake did not cause them to fall, the noise and echo really hurt them. They felt like they were going to become deaf because it hurt so much. Please, make it stop, they pleaded subconsciously. Make it stop!
Then, as the pain surged through their bodies, it stopped. There was no more echoing, no more violently quaking, no nothing. Everything that was hurting their ears suddenly halted. Thank goodness… but could they still hear? Did they become deaf? Were they never going to hear anything again as long as they lived?
But a faint rustle of grass was heard not long after. They were not deaf, and there was no hearing loss, either. Let them hope they would not feel this much pain again, because they might not be able to sustain it the next time around.
When they looked at him once again, however, they were beginning to freak out and were wishing that they kept their eyes closed: The beast's yellow eyes turned pearl white; and a contemptuous growl was aimed right at them, his long, sharp teeth both exposed and hungry.
Suddenly, he took a step closer, then another, and another, and another! It did not do much good for him, though, as both Alexander and Roquefort – each of them looking extremely terrified – started walking backwards.
No sooner than when they walked out from underneath the mushroom did their worst fears come to life…
"LOOK OUT!" cried Roquefort and pushed Alexander (and himself) out of the way.
They were able to move aside just in time, for the beast landed on the spot they were once at.
They were nowhere near out of the woods just yet, especially for Alexander.
The creature turned his head toward him and growled vilely, causing the ground to shake. Then, he pounced at his direction, his mouth opening widely along the way.
Alexander screamed out of fright and lunged to his right, narrowly escaping his enemy's jaws.
Groaning from crashing on the ground, Alexander looked up and there he was again, growling contemptuous and eyeing at him. And, then, he lunged right at him again.
"AAAHHH!" he screamed and ran to his left, escaping the pounce.
Roquefort (who was watching the attack) quickly ran up to his comrade, sporting a look of concern on his face.
"Are you okay, Alexander?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," replied Alexander with a small pant before looking at the gigantic cat ahead.
The tom was not to be fazed; no sooner did he hear their voice, his feral state returned – the same menacing snarl and glare were targeting both of them.
And, then, he pounced…
…And roared thunderously.
Alexander and Roquefort covered their ears or antennae, and they began running back from where they came.
No sooner than the moment they ran, however, did the roaring stop.
But when they look back, they screamed out of fright. The creature was now chasing them, and he was gaining ground with each sprint.
"What's with him?" exclaimed Alexander belligerently, hard pants escaping his system each time he breathed. "We didn't do anything to him, did we?"
"I don't know, either," replied Roquefort while looking back. "Right now, we should ignore about that right now and keep running instead!"
"Ditto that," thought Alexander in agreement.
"Alexander…!" exclaimed Roquefort.
"What is it?" asked Alexander wonderingly while looking at Roquefort.
The Mobian mosquito pointed, and Alexander followed it. The cat had slowed itself down and opened his mouth widely.
"I don't notice anything, Roquefort," he said. "Except seeing him yawn."
"Don't be fooled, Alexander," advised Roquefort. "That is no yawn."
"Huh?" Alexander queried bewilderedly before hearing a mysterious whirring from the background.
Even though he still ran, he retained his attention on the creature. Sure enough, he agreed with Roquefort. There was some sort of power coming from him, but what was it?
He soon wished he did not find out…
…Because a huge beam of yellow light was suddenly fired, and it was getting closer, and closer, and closer, and closer, until…
Alexander did not even try to wait for the Emerald's yell, as he suddenly pulled back, grabbed onto Roquefort's left arm, and dove to the ground.
Good thing he did, because the beam soared over them and crashed into the grass a few yards away, exploding on impact.
Alexander sighed in relief once the sound of the explosion died down. "That was close," he thought. "If we remained standing for three extra seconds, we would be dead by now."
"I hate to burst your bubble, Alexander," interrupted the Chaos Emerald's voice, "but it's gaining on us!"
Alexander shot up and looked behind him. The feral monster locked his eyes upon the child, and was already preparing for a mad dash.
With a yelp of fright, he grabbed a semi-delirious Roquefort by the arm and pulled themselves up. "C'mon, Roquefort!" he yelped. "He'll be gaining on us if we don't run!"
Roquefort had a tough time standing up, but his friend's calling snapped him out of it.
Well, not without a little more help from a very familiar growl, too.
From afar, the creature looked upon them with venomous eyes. Those vermin looked so delicious. He could just smell them right now and imagine them what they would taste like after they were dead. It was a shame he would have to kill them first.
Oh, no! They were running away from him! His prey was trying to escape from his grasp. Well, over his dead body. There was no way he would ever allow that. Not now, not ever! With a thunderous roar, he chased after them like the carnivorous little creature he was. Oh, just they wait, the fools, just they wait. Wait until they were at his mercy. Then, they could decide what version of horror they desired… if they ever lived for it, that was.
Wait a minute. He knew where they were going. Now, it made very much sense to him. A lick of his chomps followed. He had an idea how to scare them out. That would make his upcoming dinner all the much enjoyable. Oh, yes, indeed.
The only thing he needed now was where to put it on as a garnish. Hmm… Maybe later tonight, he would think about it. Now, time to surprise his prey.
Alexander and Roquefort ran across the plains as quickly as they could (and it was a little bit quicker, too; Roquefort decided to use his wings and pulled Alexander along for the ride).
Poor Alexander was forced to take long strides because that was the only way to keep up with Roquefort without being dragged along the ground. And, boy, was he hurting. He was certain that he pulled something sometime earlier. If his worst fears came true, it would be several weeks before he could walk normally again, and the Chaos Emerald would not tolerate that under any circumstances.
"Damn straight," his voice said, detecting the child's thoughts like a magnet.
"Thanks for the encouragement, kind sir," Alexander sarcastically said telepathically.
"No problem," said the gem in a mock-kind manner.
Their conversation would be interrupted.
"How're you doing, Alexander?" asked Roquefort as he looked at his right.
"I'm doing okay," replied Alexander. "As okay as a human pretzel," he added in thought.
"A tasty one at best," chortled the Chaos Emerald's cranium-echoing vocality.
If this were an anime showcase, he would face-fault from that remark. "But you don't have a mouth; you can't even eat!"
"So? 'Twas a nice a nice thought."
Alexander rolled his eyes. "The red Emerald was right all along. Your way of thinking lacks common sense sometimes."
"Hey! I'm not alone who needs a bit of common sense, you know," retorted the Chaos Emerald, his aura from within the bag glowing dark blue and becoming very hot.
Alexander could literally feel the anger after touching the burning bag, so he decided to do what was good for him and clamp it.
He quieted himself at the right time…
"Alexander! We've reached the tunnel!" called Roquefort.
Alexander looked up and noticed the cave ahead of him. The opening was twenty feet high at its tallest, and it was in the shape of a half-circle. Formed all around it was what looked like a mountain. The façade looked a bit craggy, as there was a ledge above the entrance. Mushrooms were on each side of the cave, their tall formations blocking the view of what the facing looked like. In addition, three tall, skinny, light green-capped mushrooms towered above, blocking out the rest of the facing. Apparently, what the mountain looked like was going to be an eternal secret.
He did not look for long, however, for they soon zoomed into the dark tunnel. Moments later, Roquefort surprised him by landing on the ground and releasing his grip.
Alexander looked a little confused from the mosquito's actions and said so. "Why'd you stop flying?"
"Two reasons," said Roquefort. "One: I can't fly indoors. Two: For some reason, I can't fly any higher than a few feet above the ground, regardless of altitude – the further I'm off any solid ground, my wings sink."
"Ouch," flinched Alexander, then realized he burst a bubble. "Sorry, Roquefort."
Roquefort shook his head with a graceful smile. "No offense taken," he said. "Besides, I don't think you'd want to be very high above the ground."
Alexander snorted. "Don't even ask," he said curtly. "No offense to my tone," he quickly added politely.
"None taken," said Roquefort kindly and grabbed onto Alex's hand. "C'mon. Let's run."
Alexander obliged and ran alongside him.
About a quarter of the way, the Halbery child decided to look back and recalled something peculiar that he had seen – correction: make that not seen – a few minutes ago.
"Is it me, or have we not seen that monster for a while now?"
Roquefort's eyes rounded (as rounded as they could be, apparently). "Now that I think of it, I haven't seen him in a while, either." He placed his unused right hand under his chin.
Alexander looked down, his expression looking a lot like he was pondering. "Do you think that he decided to give up chasing us?"
"Good question," replied Roquefort, "but I don't want to find out."
"Me, neither," agreed Alexander, and they continued running.
A few moments later, they noticed the other side of the tunnel in front of them. In just a few moments, they would be free, and they would no longer have to completely worry about that hungry feline.
Apparently, that was not the case.
Just as they reached the exit, the big creature roared loudly and echoingly, causing both Roquefort and Alexander to scream their heads off… literally.
"AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" went the shriek, and they quickly ran back the other way, holding their ears and antennae along the way.
They were not going to escape on his watch, and he fired his beam at the left side of the cave wall.
Alexander and Roquefort were caught by surprise as an explosion threw them a few feet back. Pain surged through their bodies as a result. Not only from the ears (although it slowly went away), but their limbs, too. They were definitely going to need a nice, long bath later… if they could find one.
Groaning and moaning, they slowly sat up and gasped at what was about fifteen feet in front of them.
The cave was now blocked with a thick layer of rock. No light penetrated from the other side.
They then looked behind and noticed the feral cat was blocking the entrance.
A loud, collective gulp followed. They had reached the obvious.
They were trapped.
And it looked like they were losing space really fast – the overgrown tom was stalking them slowly and frightfully. His supper was moments away.
Alexander and Roquefort responded by backing up at the same pace.
Then, before they knew it, their backs were literally against the wall. There really was no way out.
And their lives were getting closer to being over, as the beast was still pussyfooting at them very slowly, trying to make them even more fearful and less confident.
"I think this is the end of the line, Alexander," sighed Roquefort in defeat and hung his head, waiting for the upcoming death.
Alexander sighed. "Yeah, you might be right," he said, feeling ready to quit as well. "If I did not feel so weak," he thought grimly. "If only I can have the strength to defeat that animal. They said I tapped into the Chaos Emerald once before, but I don't remember it." A sigh followed. "So, now wha—"
The light bulb turned on. "That's it! Of course, why didn't I think of this before?" He grumbled under his breath for a moment and looked at Roquefort with a smile. "Roquefort, let's get outta here."
Roquefort looked flabbergasted from his comrade's sudden words. "But how can we?" he exclaimed frightfully. "The cat has us trapped!"
"I know," said Alexander cunningly and looked at the stalking cat about ten feet in front of him. Then, while opening his travel bag, he slyly said, "I've found a way of leaving here."
Roquefort did not quite believe him, but before he stop himself, he asked, "When are we gonna leave?"
Alexander firmly grabbed onto Roquefort's right arm with his left hand, his smile turning into a smirk. "Now." He reached into his bag.
The creature was eyeing his prey with every desire to frighten them. He wanted them to know what torture meant and how they were going to handle it. So far, it was all going according to plan. They were literally scared of him and were waiting for their upcoming death. In multiple ways, it smelled and tasted so tasty.
Then, he noticed the human conversing with the insect. He did not know what they were talking about. He heard the child say they were leaving and he had the ticket in doing so. How foolish and pompous he was. They were trapped, there was no way out. He was just talking nonsense. And what was he putting his hand into that bag anyway? Was it a little fork and knife? If it was, he would surely welcome the utensils.
Was he wrong…
The human reached his right hand high into the air, and in it was some form of enlarged jewel in an Emerald cut. What trickery was this? A measly little gemstone was going to help them escape? Yeah, right.
Then he screamed. Bright blue light engulfed the cave, blinding the beast's eyes. What was happening? What was going on? Why could he not see?
Moments later, the light diminished, replacing it with the usual dark surroundings. But there was something missing, he could smell it.
Where was his prey? His dinner? It was missing! The human and insect were no longer there. It could not happen. Did they escape? No, impossible. He had them; they were just a pounce away from being dead! No, it just could not be.
Wait! Maybe they were still around. Yes, that was logical.
So, he sniffed.
Oh, well, let him try again.
Another sniff followed.
Therefore, he tried again, then again, and again!
No, it was not true. Tell him his prey escaped?
An elaborate whiff.
Finally, a gigantic, humongous, final, game-seven, bottom-of-the-ninth, winner-take-all-wrestling-match inhale.
All for naught…
Why did his luck run out again? Why was he cursed with such bad luck? Please, for the love of the Mobian heavens, give him the luck that he rightfully deserved—
Huh? What the…? Was his wish coming true? Did he smell some prey nearby? It sure smelled like it. Hold on a minute! There was something familiar, something he recognized before. Something he…
Yes! His food was nearby. Oh, thank the Mobian lord above. Now, time to find it.
And, so, he went…
…He just needed to barrel through the wall he created to find it, that was all.
"…Ow, my head," moaned Alexander as he reached for his head. He had never felt such a headache in a long time. Heck, not even the anomalies named Carddall and Mannato had inflicted such punishment on him. "Boy, do I need a drink of water right about now."
Another moan was heard nearby.
"I agree with that statement," said Roquefort. "Or better yet, a drink of some of that mushroom sap."
"Yeah, that'd be better," chuckled Alexander and opened his eyes for the first time since triggering Chaos Control.
What was happening? Why could he see noting? It was all pitch black here.
But if that was true, why in the world could he see his own hands? Either it was something strange, or it could be some form of magic and witchcraft. Bah! Witchcraft. That was pure baloney… "I think."
Curiosity in his brain, he looked and noticed Roquefort.
An embarrassed blush hit his cheeks. "Roquefort, please get your hand off of me," he said in a quiet, but annoyed, tone.
Roquefort opened his heavy eyes and looked around. Blackness. He saw nothing, except himself. Then, he heard Alexander's annoyed hiss.
Wondering why, he looked down.
"Yaah!" he squeaked and jumped back out of surprise.
"S-Sorry, Alexander," apologized Roquefort and looked down, the sides of his nose flushing a dark red color.
The redness in the Halbery child's own cheeks quickly went away. "It's okay, Roquefort. It wasn't your fault." He got to his feet and helped Roquefort do the same.
"So, what's going on?" asked Roquefort as he moved his head around, his blush nothing more than a distant memory.
"I'm not sure," said Alexander as his head moved back and forth, too. "It's so dark in here, I can't see anything." He sighed and looked at his hands and arms. "Where did that Chaos Emerald and bag go?"
"You mean these?" Roquefort wondered and held out both the cyan jewel in his left hand and open travel bag on his lefft shoulder.
"Thanks." Alexander received the offerings and used the Chaos Emerald as some sort off flashlight. So far, he found nothing. "Drat, I can't pinpoint anything solid."
"So, this is the consequence of using Chaos Control without picturing something in my mind," he added in thought and cursed under his breath.
"Watch your language, kid!" scolded the Emerald's voice.
Alexander was in no mood to apologize now. "Sorry," but he did it anyway.
"Now, what do we do?" asked Roquefort.
Alexander shrugged. "Well, we could try to teleport ourselves outta here," he suggested.
Roquefort did not object to that idea and held Alexander's open left hand.
Alexander closed his eyes to try to picture an area that he recognized, something he did not do previously. In mere moments, a mental vision formed. He was ready.
"Chaos Control!" went his loud command.
The light from the cyan gemstone glowed brightly as the aura illuminated intensely. Such a surge of power was coming from this special jewel. He could really feel it.
And, then, the power left. The energy died down like electricity in a power outage.
Human eyes opened upon the discovery. "What the…?" he wondered and brought the Emerald to his face.
Roquefort looked back at him. "Was this supposed to happen?" he asked.
Alexander shook his head. "No, Roquefort. This is not supposed to happen." He wanted to try again, but he felt no energy coming from the mystical jewel, albeit its bright aura surrounding it.
At last, he gave up. "Looks like we're stuck here."
Roquefort sighed in defeat after hearing that. Of all these years, he had never felt like quitting before until recently. And the mood was becoming very somber as Alexander decided not to try Chaos Control again.
However, his mood quickly changed upon thinking about something. Hopefully, what he thought would make them steer away from the solemnity.
"Alexander, what did you do to get us here?"
Alexander was caught back by the sudden question, but he sure hid it well as he showed him the gemstone.
"I used this jewel, called a Chaos Emerald, to travel to an area to escape that beast. The warp I used is called Chaos Control, and it located us here, wherever 'here' is," he added while looking up at the vast emptiness of darkness.
"Wow," gasped Roquefort, not believing what he heard. "I didn't even know gems like these could do something like this."
"Don't tell me, tell Sonic," explained Alexander. "He was the one who told me about all this."
Roquefort grinned widely, envy pouring into his usual mature brain. "Maybe you can do that again later on."
"Maybe," shrugged Alexander and chuckled.
That was when the mosquito thought of something else.
"Alexander, do you think we lost that cat?"
"Let's hope so, Roquefort," said Alexander, half-positive and half-doubtful.
He should have remained completely doubtful…
They yelped out of surprise once they heard that familiar growl.
"Oh, crap," muttered Alexander under his breath. "Looks like I may be wrong, Roquefort."
"I'll have to agree with you, Alexander," said Roquefort, his facial gesture looking very defensive.
Another loud growl, another vibration, and another loud gasp – it was becoming very scary.
"I think it's closing in on us," Roquefort added, his antennae twitching madly.
They backed themselves up and moved their heads back and forth, waiting for it to approach them. It would be mere moments before they had to face him. If these mere moments were not becoming both painful and nerve-wracking—