Chapter 3: Chance City Zone

By the time Sonic reached the light he had seen in the distance, the sun had disappeared from the sky completely, and the darkness of the night was in full effect. Sonic had realized soon after entering the realm of flashing lights and casino sounds that he wouldn't be getting much rest, but why rest when there's an insane scientist to be stopped? Sonic had also realized something else: he had been here before. Way back, when he first met Tails, this was one of the places that Robotnik had taken over. The casino had actually been one of the more fun areas, and the night really helped set the stage, just as it did now. The workers here had done a nice job of cleaning up the place; but in retrospect, it wasn't that badly wrecked to begin with. The only thing that the place was better without were the spikes—in fact, even the crab robots had been reprogrammed for cleaning duty.

Because of this, Sonic was shocked when he saw several robot attackers appear out of nowhere and invade the place. They resembled insects once again, including moths and grasshoppers. Robotnik must have taken over this place as an afterthought. Sonic also realized that the enemies matched those that Robotnik had used in one area of the Little Planet—an area much like this one, in fact. Despite these ruminations, Sonic jumped across the first moth and wiped it out. Sonic expected it to drop a seed and sprout a flower, like the one on Little Planet, but it didn't. Instead, an animal came out, like in Robotnik's usual robots.

Continuing on, Sonic noticed another addition. A past sign was set up next to a strange machine that looked like some sort of teleporter. Sonic stepped onto the outer edge of the machine's platform, and to his surprise, Sonic didn't disappear and reappear somewhere else. Instead, he began to run in an uncontrollable circle. Sonic wondered what purpose such a machine could possibly serve, until he remembered the past sign.

Recalling how the signs' energy was activated, Sonic jumped off of the machine and backed up, then ran back onto the machine, touching the past sign on the way. Just as he had predicted, Sonic began to feel the energy generated by his speed swell around him, reach a high point, and stop. Sonic stopped running and looked around. He was in the past, and the casino was just the way he remembered it.

Now in the past, Sonic continued through the zone. Seeing a giant pinball setup, Sonic decided that he deserved a break. He jumped onto a giant flipper and it launched him toward a target higher up on the table. Sonic was about to be pulled in when gravity backfired and he fell back down. Sonic tried again, this time from the opposite side, and made it into the target. A large slot machine above him activated, and two of the reels landed on Ring icons. Just as Sonic was getting excited, the last reel landed on Robotnik's face. Sonic didn't win anything, and was dropped from the machine into a pit at the bottom of the machine.

The ramp led toward the right side of the pinball table, but then dropped into one going in the opposite direction. That ramp led to a pit with a spring at the bottom, which caught Sonic, pulled back, and let go with astounding force. The force, when combined with the fact that Sonic was still rolled into a ball, caused him to be launched through a loop, grabbing some Rings along the way, and out to a flat area. Sonic was about to ram into something when he stopped, and he only just caught himself.

The thing he was about to hit was a crab robot, just like when Sonic first came here. The difference was that Robotnik was wiser this time—the robot was equipped not with a spring shield, but with a nasty claw. Wherever Sonic moved, the claw moved into his way. Sonic was at a loss until his orange Time Stone came out of its dimension and went into Sonic's hand, just like the green one did when Sonic got close to the magma in the last area he went to. It then shone upon the robot, and the robot became a pacifist. It pulled out a broom from nowhere and began to sweep the floor around it.

Sonic caught on quickly: the green Time Stone was capable of causing objects to go back in time, like the rock in the last area, which returned to a magma state. The orange one was the opposite; it caused objects to go forward in time, to the way they would be several years from the current time. This particular event caused the crab robot to become the one-robot cleaning crew that it would eventually be reprogrammed into. Sonic then heard footsteps behind him and jumped for a high ledge where he wouldn't be seen.

Sonic was briefly surprised by the identity—or rather, identities—of the coming travelers. They were Sonic and Tails! Sonic remembered that he was in the future, and that he could see the past version of himself from time to time. Tails was in the middle of saying something to Sonic from the past.

"…were so fun! We have to go back!" Tails pleaded.

Sonic from the past replied, "We can't go back and play pinball again, Tails. We have to get to Robotnik quickly!"

"Aww…"

Sonic from the past continued on, and Tails reluctantly followed. Sonic from the future remembered this moment while resisting the urge to jump down and scare both of them out of their socks. Sonic didn't remember seeing himself do that in the past either, so he didn't. Yet the situation made him wonder how modern-day Tails and the others were doing back on Earth…

Tails was at a large computer in his workshop in the Mystic Ruins. Knuckles and Amy had followed him there, because they were all anxious to see if Tails could locate Sonic. Tails opened a small door in the side of one of the machines in the room. Then, he sat at the computer and began to type like mad. All that Knuckles and Amy could see was a flurry of incomprehensible text flying up the screen. Tails pressed one final key and waited for results.

"So Tails," Knuckles asked, "explain again how you can use this to find Sonic?"

Tails was willing to explain as simply as he could. "Sonic mentioned before he left that the Time Stones are similar to the Chaos Emeralds. If the two stones generate a similar enough energy field, then one can be used to track the other just as easily as two Chaos Emeralds could be used to find one another."

"So, what's the difficulty with finding Sonic?" Knuckles questioned.

"First, the way the Little Planet moves erratically, it's impossible to know where it is at any given time. The only thing that we know about its patterns is that it returns to low orbit around Mobius—the planet we all lived on before we came here—once each month. Apart from that, the planet's warps are entirely unpredictable. This means that Sonic could be anywhere in the entire universe, and a greater amount of the universe is outside of our range that is in our range."

"Is there any way we could increase the range of your detector?" Knuckles continued to ask, curious.

"In theory, if we had more Chaos Emeralds, my machine could generate a larger field of energy. A larger field of energy would allow us to detect stones in even the farther-off corners of the universe. Corners being a figurative term, of course," Tails replied.

Amy had an idea. "Knuckles, don't you have the Master Emerald? Wouldn't that give us a huge field of energy?"

Knuckles responded, "Say, that's not a bad idea. I'll go to Angel Island to get the Master Emerald and bring it back here. Just sit tight until I get back, alright?"

Once the past variants of Sonic and Tails were gone, modern Sonic leapt down from his ledge. He then watched as the heroes of the past boarded an elevator. The elevator left, and Sonic waited for a few minutes, just to see if it would return, but it didn't. Sonic was forced back onto his ledge, where he saw a roof above the elevator's destination. Despite his best efforts, Sonic couldn't reach the edge. Pulling out a Ring, Sonic attempted to power up his jump.

Sonic was successful to the end that he reached the high ledge, but the only thing up there was a short hallway leading to a wall. On the floor was a gray television monitor. Sonic looked at the screen and saw that the display was flashing between snow and a small blue circle. Sonic spun and jumped onto the monitor, breaking it. A blue energy shield formed around Sonic. Satisfied, he jumped down to the platform below.

Despite his new shield, Sonic was still stuck. The elevator had not come back yet; it was clear by now that it was not going to come back. After a moment's thought, Sonic became curious about what the elevator would be modified into in the future. Sonic approached the elevator shaft and summoned his orange Time Stone, then cast its light onto the place in front of him where the elevator platform would be. A glass tube faded into view, with a door outlined on the front. Sonic could see the effect move all the way up the shaft, modifying it into a glass transport tube.

Once again satisfied with his handiwork, Sonic slid the door open and stepped in. The door closed and Sonic was sent flying into the air at borderline-Mach 1 speeds. Sonic was confident about his estimation, since he was very familiar with the feeling of travel at the speed of sound. Sonic was stopped by an unidentifiable force at the top of the shaft. The top door opened and Sonic stepped out. He realized that a floor plate had slid into place underneath him inside the elevator, and that was what kept him from falling.

Sonic continued to press onward and saw the floor in front of him clear out into a void. Looking outward, Sonic realized that this was another giant pinball table, so he jumped down onto the left flipper and was launched directly into the slot machine. The reels spun for longer than usual, but settled on Sonic's face, Tails' face, and a bar. Sonic dropped down and hit a bumper, which saved him from the pit at the bottom and sent him to the right flipper. Sonic launched off of this one and hit the slot machine again. This time, the first two reels landed quickly on Robotnik's face. Fearing the worst, Sonic's fears were proven when the third reel also landed on Robotnik's face. A ring of spikes was launched at Sonic, popping his shield.

Sonic then fell out and hit the bumper, only this hit wasn't enough to propel Sonic to a flipper. He hit the slanted floor below and was dropped into a tunnel identical to the one in the bottom of the first pinball table. This time, though, the loop he was sent into didn't have any Rings in it. As Sonic exited the tunnel system, he unrolled into a run and was struck with terror as he saw a sign a few feet away. He hadn't located Robotnik's machine! Sonic ran through the sign, as he saw the tunnel behind him close up, and then inadvertently hit a future sign before him. Sonic was already running, so against his will, he was sent back to the present.

Once in the present, Sonic noticed that there were many more robots than there had been at first. Sonic was eager to find any escape, so when he saw another future sign, he quickly hit it and spindashed, sending himself into the future. Hoping that somehow his past form had triumphed, Sonic was disappointed that the future was a wreck. It still bore some resemblance to what the casino might look like in the future, except for the fact that the area looked like a federal disaster area.

Sonic continued with dashed will until he saw a row of enemies just asking for it. Sonic pulled out a Ring and used a supercharged spindash to destroy them all in one shot. The dash sent Sonic rolling through a loop and into another giant pinball table, this one ruined. At the top was Robotnik, in a cockpit overlooking the table, and on the sides were spikes. "So, Sonic, do you like what I've done with the place? I can tell you that I like it much better than if you had intervened at all. But luckily for me, you were too busy playing pinball to stop me."

Sonic wasn't in a mood for words, but he was filled with rage on the inside at Robotnik's arrogant comments. Sonic jumped down onto a flipper and launched himself straight at Robotnik's window, but a bumper sent Sonic astray, into a spike strip on the wall. Sonic bounced off and watched the remainder of his Rings fall away between the flippers, into nothingness. Sonic landed and launched again, but this time he missed the bumper and hit Robotnik's cockpit. This shattered it, forcing Robotnik to flee, but Sonic still didn't have a way out.

Landing on a flipper a third time, Sonic launched himself exactly as he had before and went through the hole left by Robotnik's retreat. On top he found a past sign and passed it, and ran fast enough to return to his present time. In the present, Sonic was surprised to see his plane, the Tornado, parked on the ground in front of him. Sonic was confused, because he thought that the Tornado was on Earth. Then he realized that the Tornado on Earth was Tails' new purple one. The red one was older, and was sitting here.

It was wrecked when Sonic last saw it, and Tails used it to test his Chaos Emerald-powered repair system. The machine went awry, though, and the plane disappeared. Sonic now knew two things: first, this was where the machine sent the plane; and second, the machine worked, despite its major flaw. Sonic saw the remnants of Old Angel Island in the sky above him and knew that he had to use the Tornado to fly there.