Speed and Purpose

By T Evans

Disclaimer: I don't own Sonic or STC, not one bit. Don't sue me, for I have no money.

At all.

A/N

Long time no see, fanfictiondotnet.

Yes I'm still working on this fanfic. Unfortunately though, I'm also a full-time student among other things, so I haven't had much time to work on it. But I haven't abandoned it (if anyone even still remembers this thing! I'm determined to finish this.)

I've made a few tweaks and rearranged the fic into smaller chapters, and added a new one. From here on chapter length will vary- sticking to the 20-page format was not working given my real-life commitments.

In case you don't know, this fanfic is based on my own headcanon- which is based on the Fleetway universe with a few tweaks.

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Chapter 1

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This is the story of my life
And I write it everyday
I know it isn't black and white
And it's anything but grey
I know that no I'm not alright, but I feel ok cos
Anything can, everything can happen

-Bon Jovi

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117,63222 light years from Earth, in a different time zone to our own and hidden within a region of dark matter lies the planet Mobius.

This is a world both familiar and alien. It is a place whose life forms look uncannily like those of Earth until you look more closely and see that some of those animals are people; where the days are the same length but you can look into the sky and see two moons there; where ordinary sights sit comfortably shoulder-to-shoulder with the bizarre, and where the laws of physics are made to be broken if you only know how.

In the years before Robotnik, Mobius' technology- though advanced- was an option, not a necessity. A few high-tech cities coexisted happily with vast swathes of unspoilt wilderness, dotted with the majestic ruins of long-lost civilisations. Like any inhabited world Mobius had its share of war and conflict- but for decades the hundreds of sentient species had lived together in relative harmony.

But as we all know, this era of peace was not destined to last forever.

This is the story of how it ended.

Sonic the hedgehog was running for his life.

Crossing the chasm via the log bridge had turned out to be a very bad idea. Now it was collapsing behind him, log by log, and only his speed prevented him from plummeting to certain death in the black abyss below. He gritted his teeth and tried to coax a little more acceleration from his exhausted body.

Suddenly there was a hungry screech and movement to either side of him- a pair of vicious pteranodons were diving from above, their huge leathery wings tucked to their sides as they rocketed in for the kill.

Not a problem, Sonic smirked to himself. The reptiles were so intent on having hedgehog for dinner that they hadn't seen each other. He waited until the very last moment then leapt powerfully upwards, causing the two would-be predators to collide in midair and fall away behind him in a tangle of claws, beaks and wings.

As he landed he felt the log give way beneath his feet and lunged desperately for the edge of the cliff. His gloved hands clutched at the grasses hanging over the edge; he gave a sigh of relief as they held firm, then hauled himself up onto safe, solid ground.

Sonic glanced over his shoulder to see the last remnants of the bridge disappear into the darkness. But he couldn't pause to catch his breath- now he could hear something else approaching, a sort of droning noise…

"…And that's your other problem, young hedgehog… you just don't pay attention!" this was punctuated by the snap of a ruler on the edge of his desk, which jerked him out of his doze.

The teenaged Sonic the hedgehog blinked and glanced around the otherwise deserted classroom before eventually focusing on the face of the teacher.

"Uh… seven hundred and fifty miles per hour?" he ventured in the hope that he had been asked a question.

The teacher- a mole- gave a long-suffering sigh and pushed his glasses further up his snout. "Sonic, I know you're not stupid. Maybe if you'd just attempt to listen to what you're being told for more than three minutes you'd actually learn something..."

"Maybe if you'd just attempt to be less boring," the hedgehog suggested, swinging on the back two legs of his chair.

"I try to help him and all I get is attitude," the exasperated teacher muttered to himself. He was tired, it was the last day before the summer holidays, and he just wanted to go home and have dinner. The mole eyed his troublesome pupil and tried to decide if he actually had the patience to deal with him.

Feet in battered white trainers rested on the edge of the desk. The teenager's dark brown eyes had a lively spark in them that suggested more intelligence than he let on, and his furry tan muzzle was fixed in an irreverent smirk.

His quills were a lighter brown than his eyes and forever grew in an untameable mess. Covered in these sharp spines from forehead to tail, hedgehogs had never needed to evolve great size or strength to defend themselves so were not the largest or most imposing of Mobians. Sonic was lightly built even for a hedgehog; he was somewhat small for his age, and still had the slightly awkward look of a growing teenager. But what he lacked in size he made up for in pent-up energy. If he wasn't dozing off he was fidgeting- his foot would tap on the floor or his fingers drum against the table and he was never still for more than a few seconds at a time. When he spoke his hands were constantly in jerky motion, gesturing to enhance whatever point he was making. If he was particularly excited his words and sentences ran into each other as if he couldn't get them out fast enough.

And one thing every teacher in the school agreed on was that they had no idea what to do with him. Sonic became bored too quickly to learn much from a book or lecture. He undoubtedly had a talent for sports- well, apart from swimming- and although not particularly strong had an amazing running speed and the balance and agility of a natural gymnast. But sports came with rules, and Sonic did not like rules. Nor did he seem to have any idea of his own limitations. He took insane risks and overextended himself on a regular basis, so often in fact that he probably spent more time in the nurse's office than any other pupil.

The mole sighed, realising he probably wasn't going to get anywhere, and that anything he did say would go in one of the hedgehog's pointed little ears and out the other.

"I'm just not getting through, am I? Go on, you might as well go home." Sonic had grabbed his bag and almost bolted out the door when he added wearily, "I assume we won't be seeing you next term…?"

The teenager's grin reappeared in the doorway. "Not a chance," he confirmed happily.

Sonic had just turned fourteen. This was an important milestone for any young Mobian. It meant that, although he would not be considered adult for several years yet, he was old enough to make his own decisions. Which included leaving school if he so chose, among other freedoms.

"Have you thought about this?" the mole made one final effort. "You really need to decide what you're going to do with your life, Sonic. You can't make a living just running around-"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever you say…" Sonic humoured him. "Can I go now or what?"

"As long as you're still on school premises, hedgehog, that's 'Can I go now or what, sir?'"

"Yes sir, as ordered, sir!" Sonic grinned mischievously and, showing absolutely no respect whatsoever, snapped him a mock salute.

Rolling his eyes, the teacher made a shooing motion with one large paw. "Get going before I keep you here another hour. And don't slam the-"

The door slammed. Sonic was gone.

A resigned sigh. "I'll be surprised if that hedgehog ever makes anything of himself."

Sonic pushed back the cuff of his glove and glanced at his watch.

"Gah- I'm late!" he exclaimed, dismayed, and after pausing just long enough to drop off his tattered schoolbag, pelted off through the Emerald Hill Village which had been home for as long as he could remember.

Emerald Hill was the most southerly of South Island's many Hill Zones. It lived up to its name, with gently rolling hills dotted with coconut trees and covered in what locals argued was the greenest grass on the whole island. Snaking through it all was the Emerald River, which tumbled over a series of waterfalls on its way to the cliffs and then the sea. If you looked south from the cliffs there were views of the vast Mobian Ocean. To the west was the narrow channel separating the island from Theria, Mobius' largest continent. On a clear day like today you could make out the suspension bridge connecting the two landmasses and even the tall skyscrapers of the Metropolis Zone further away across the water.

Emerald Hill was a quiet rural Zone and the village reflected this. The round-windowed houses of the sleepy market village were wooden and cylindrical to resemble the trees they had been made from, and although they did have some concessions to technology such as electricity, running water and plumbing, powered vehicles were few and far between and only a narrow tiled road wound its way though the village.

Sonic of course took all this for granted as he ran through the street, dodging past and sometimes yelling a quick hello to other villagers. Some of the people he narrowly avoided collisions with were clothed and some were not; most, like Sonic, walked upright and had hands instead of paws, wings or flippers, while here and there a person ambled along on all fours or flapped through the air on feathered wings. These individuals were known as Old Mobians, that particular bit of evolution having happened- as far as the archaeologists knew- many thousands of years ago.

The hedgehog was wandering around the village outskirts by the time he found who he was looking for. Johnny Lightfoot was a rabbit, grey-furred and blue-eyed, rather tall and lanky for his age. His long ears added an extra foot to his height.

"I was about to give up and go home- where've you been?" he asked.

"Detention," Sonic replied almost proudly.

The ever-sensible Johnny rolled his eyes. "Sonic, only you could manage to get detention on the last day of term."

"The last ever." A grin. "Thank goodness. The place was doing my head in."

The rabbit, who hadn't known about this, looked slightly worried. "You're not going back in September?"

Sonic looked at him as if he'd grown an extra pair of ears. "Me? Are you kidding? C'mon, Lightfoot, can you honestly see me doing exams?"

"Well… no… but what are you going to do?" Johnny was a year older than Sonic- more or less- but unlike the hedgehog had decided to stay in school.

Sonic appeared to think for a moment. "Dunno yet," he shrugged, grinning. "I'll find out when I do it, I guess." His eyes lit up as he remembered why he was there. "Hey, didya get those rings for me?"

Johnny showed him the two large golden rings he had collected earlier. They hung loosely from his arm and clinked together softly.

"Yeah, but I still don't think that-"

"Cool!" Sonic interrupted. "Race you to the loop, okay?"

And without waiting for an answer, he was off.

Johnny Lightfoot had known Sonic since the hedgehog had first arrived in the Zone. Why the well-groomed rabbit had befriended the bedraggled, five year old little ball of quills that Sonic had been was anybody's guess. The two seemed so different in personality and appearance that most people were amazed they got along at all. Johnny had a calm thoughtful nature and was content to be the quiet one in a group- but you could be sure that anything he did say had had a lot of thought put into it and would usually make perfect sense. Sonic of course was the opposite.

It was soon clear that the two made a good team, however, as each provided something the other lacked: Sonic was confident and assertive, while Johnny had enough common sense (and manners) for the two of them.

Of course in many situations it was Sonic's stubbornness rather than Johnny's good sense that won. Such was the case as the unlikely pair stared up at an object that was a common sight on Mobius but would have been extraordinary anywhere else: a giant, upright, rectangular stone slab with a round hole in the middle big enough to fly a small plane through.

These 'loops' had probably been built to resemble the golden rings of Mobius but no one knew for sure who had constructed them or when. Just like the rings you could find them almost everywhere on South Island. This particular loop was located near the cliffs, just off an old track-way through the Zone. It was a large one and like most of the stonework in Emerald Hill it was covered in gaudy yellow and orange tiles, but several of these had fallen off over the years. The whole structure leaned slightly forwards so that it seemed to tower menacingly over the two teenagers standing in its shadow.

"Are you sure about this?" Johnny wondered, shaking his head.

"Aren't I always?" A grin.

"It didn't work last time…"

"So?" the smaller Mobian raised an eyebrow, the grin, if anything, getting wider.

"Or the time before. I don't think it's even possible."

"You doubt me?" Sonic put a hand on his chest, pretending to be shocked. "Did I not say I had a good feeling about this? Am I, or am I not, the fastest hedgehog in the Zone?"

Johnny gave a long-suffering sigh, and didn't bother to mention that he was also the only hedgehog in the Zone, apart from elderly Mrs Rose who worked in the hairdresser's.

"Whatever you say, Sonic. I just don't see why you keep trying to do this when-"

"Because it's there," Sonic interrupted. "Because nobody's done it before, and-" he pointed a skinny arm at the stone ring, "Because when I say I'm going to run all the way round that loop, I mean I'm going to run all the way round that loop."

Having had this conversation a dozen times before and knowing just how stubborn his friend could be, Johnny sighed again. Once Sonic got an idea in his head there was no swaying him. It was as if he didn't believe gravity existed, or something.

"Sonic…"

"C'mon, Johnny, where's your sense of adventure?" Another grin. "Still got those gold rings? Good. Just chuck me one when I tell you." With that, Sonic clambered into the giant loop- the inside was smooth grey stone, so it almost looked like he was standing in the curve of a giant roll of sticky tape. Or like a pet rodent in a very large wheel.

Johnny had to fight to stop himself laughing at that image as Sonic eyed the inner surface of the loop, then glanced back at the rabbit.

"Watch and learn, dude."

That was the thing about Sonic: he didn't give up easily once he had decided he was going to achieve something. 'Impossible' was another thing the hedgehog did not believe in. The strange thing was that he was proved right surprisingly often- not always, but sometimes.

So perhaps, Johnny thought, he would manage to run the loop this time. In which case he'd immediately find some other challenge to occupy him.

Or maybe he'd just concuss himself again…

Not that Johnny could stop him now he had made his mind up.

The rabbit shifted from one foot to the other nervously.

Sonic, meanwhile, had started jogging back and forth along the bottom of the loop in a pendulum motion. Contrary to what Johnny thought, he did know a little about gravity- enough at least to realise that if he turned on his heel and ran the other way as soon as he had gone as far as he could up the side of the stone ring, he could use his own momentum to go faster, and reach a higher point on the opposite side…

The hard part was building up enough speed to reach the top and then over it without falling. Sonic had convinced himself he could do it; roller coasters did it all the time, so why couldn't he?

Running up the side of the loop again, he felt himself being tugged back down and turned, knowing from painful experience that if he tried going any further around at this speed his feet would start to slip out from under him. Faster.

Gravity worked with him as Sonic sprinted back down. He felt the drag of the wind in his spines as he accelerated, his breathing coming more quickly. Then back up the curve- a little higher this time- turning- and down again. Faster!

He was about a third of the way around the loop now, but the young hedgehog was already feeling the first warning signs of fatigue- a heaviness in his chest and legs.

Sonic smirked to himself. Oh no you don't. Time, he thought, to use his 'secret weapon'.

"Now!" he shouted as he reached the top of his arc. Johnny tossed a gold ring in a way they had practised earlier, so that when Sonic reached his turning point on the other side he was in the perfect position to catch it.

Actually, it was not so much 'catch' as 'absorb', for as soon as the ring touched his outstretched hand it dissolved into a golden shimmer that passed right though his glove and instantly filled him with a sensation of warmth and energy.

Sonic set his teeth in a grin, lowered his head and charged down the curve of the loop, the brief burst of power from the ring erasing his tiredness- at least for a few seconds- and giving him the extra boost he needed to hurtle up the other side.

He still did not have enough speed to make it all the way around, but it was close… very close. Almost halfway!

He turned, breathlessly shouting for Johnny to throw the second ring. Sonic caught it on the way back up; for a moment his running became effortless and he felt a surge of exhilaration. This was what he was made for, he thought suddenly, and would have laughed if he could have spared the breath for it.

Sonic made a split-second decision then not to turn around and build up more speed. He was so close anyway, and of course he was going to make it.

Speed overcame gravity as the slope in front of him became a wall, and then began to arch over… and he was still going. He felt a 'falling' sensation in his stomach and knew that if he looked down, he would see sky. Up ahead the grey stone of the ring was beginning its curve down towards the ground.

It was at this point Sonic realised his speed had dropped. His feet scrabbled for grip on the surface above him and then, after a long, torturous moment, left it altogether as gravity finally had its own way.

Moments later a tightly-curled ball of quills smacked against the lowest point of the inside of the loop ("ow!") then rolled off the edge and hit the ground for a second, equally indignant "ow".

The young hedgehog uncurled himself and started to get up, realised his head was spinning from being practically upside down, lost his balance and sat back down on the grass with a thump.

Johnny was looking down at him with an expression that was partly I-told-you-so but mostly concern.

"You okay?"

Sonic nodded, out of breath, bruised, but mostly unharmed. His quills had absorbed most of the impact.

"Yeah. Fine." he muttered. Scowled. Paused to let the dizziness pass.

Then he was suddenly on his feet, shouting and glaring furiously at the offending stone loop-

"-Stupid bloody thingIwassoclosewhydidn'- OW!"

Sonic yelped and grabbed his foot, having punctuated his last 'stupid' with a kick at the side of the loop- which being made of stone, hurt quite a bit.

He then erupted into language most adults would have found shocking. Fortunately most of it was said too fast to make out.

Johnny had seen enough of these explosions to know that the best thing to do was just wait and let Sonic rant himself out. Which he did eventually, and abruptly flopped down on the edge of the stone ring. There was a frustrated glint in his brown eyes, which were narrowed thoughtfully- meaning he was probably already plotting how he was going to get it right next time.

"Better?" Johnny said.

"Much."

Sonic's grumpy silence was broken by a sudden noise- that of hands clapping. It was not a round of applause, but a mocking and sarcastic parody of one. The two teens looked in the direction of the sound and groaned.

"Lance and Brindle. Wonderful," Sonic muttered, watching the pair of slightly older youths approach.

"That's all we need," Johnny agreed unhappily. "They must've followed us."

Lance stopped clapping, his thin muzzle smirking nastily. He was a dog, yellowish in colour, with a wiry, powerful frame and sharp features that were not improved by the look of contempt they now wore.

"Well, that was an impressive bit of… what would you call that?"

"Diving?" suggested the shaggy mound of fur and muscle behind him. Brindle the Old Mobian badger sat back on his haunches and crossed his massive, clawed paws on his chest. "But don't you need water for that?"

"Nah, little squirt's afraid of water." Lance grinned down at Sonic. "Aren't you?"

This got a chuckle like rocks grinding together from the badger.

"Shut up," Sonic hissed, drawing himself up to his full -if modest- height. Bad enough that they'd seen his fall…

"Leave him alone, Lance…" Johnny started.

"Why should I, buckteeth? Not denying it is he?" Lance wandered nonchalantly up to the stone loop, the heavy grey form of Brindle padding after him, low to the ground when on all fours but with enough mass for the three others put together.

"So," the dog glanced at Sonic, "Trying to run round this thing again, hmm? You'll never do it," he remarked casually. "The thing is, Sonic… I don't like to crush your hopes-" a snigger- "But hedgehogs just aren't built for speed. Especially runty little hedgehogs like you." He leaned back against the tiled stone. "Unlike me." The dog seemed to examine Sonic critically for a few seconds- the small brown hedgehog was visibly seething and his ears were laid back against his head, which only amused Lance more. As if in an aside to Brindle, he added "If he even is all hedgehog. Everyone knows his parentage is a bit… dubious. Also unlike me."

Sonic snarled at that. His quills bristled and stood up, and he threw off the calming hand Johnny put on his shoulder.

"Really? I could have sworn I saw a little poodle in you, Lance."

Johnny had seen the size of Brindle's claws and muttered, "Don't, Sonic…"

"Poodle? I'm pure greyhound, runt. But I'd rather be a poodle than a hyperactive weirdo. Probably why your family dumped you, I know I would have…"

That did it. Although Johnny tried to hold him back, grabbing him by the arm and telling him to stop because Lance and Brindle were bigger than either of them, Sonic wrenched free and charged at the greyhound with a snarl of fury.

"I don't think so," rumbled the badger. With surprising speed for a creature his size, he moved to intercept Sonic and tripped him with a muscular forelimb. The hedgehog went flying.

"Aww, too slow," Lance mocked, as Sonic spat out grass stems and dirt and scrambled to his feet, bruised pride turning to black anger on his face. The pair began to lope away, laughing, and Sonic started forwards after them.

"You wanna see how fast I am? Huh? Then you'd better start really running because I'm gonna-"

"Sonic! Don't bother, there's no point…" Johnny quickly stepped in front to block him before he could bolt off and do something stupid.

"I'm not letting them get away with that-" he glowered after the retreating bullies but much to the rabbit's relief did not try to chase them.

"It's not worth it. They're just idiots, Sonic. At least that Brindle is. Lance… well… he's probably jealous." This wasn't just Johnny finding the right thing to say- Sonic's bragging about being the fastest creature in the Zone did after all have a lot of truth in it.

Sonic sagged a little. "Yeah, I'd like to see himtry to run that loop," he muttered sulkily. "Moron. What did I do to him, anyway?"

"If I remember right… he used to go round saying he was the fastest thing in Emerald Hill, then you beat him in a race…"

The hedgehog thought for a moment- and his scowl began to lighten and change to an amused smile. "Races," he corrected. "I think it was three or four."

"And then Lance accused you of cheating and you lost your temper and walked into him."

"Backwards," Sonic finished, a wicked grin slowly spreading on his face as he shook out his quills. Unlike some hedgehogs' they were relatively stiff and razor sharp for the last few inches. "Ooh, I bet that hurt... 'Oh dear, ever so sorry, I didn't see you there, dude…'" the grin turned into a snigger. "No wonder he's always so stuck up. Maybe-" and his voice rose to a shout, so that the now-distant greyhound might hear it, "-HE'S STILL GOT A QUILL JAMMED RIGHT UP HIS-"

"Sonic!"

"What?" Innocence.

"That is not funny!" Johnny tried to keep a straight face, but failed miserably and was within moments laughing along with Sonic.

Later, after getting the grass out of his fur as best he could, Sonic climbed to the flat top of the loop by way of a broken section down one side and perched there with his legs dangling over the edge, looking out at the sea.

What clouds there were in the sky had started to turn pink and purple and the sun was beginning to sink towards the distant city. There would be an impressive sunset in a few hours time.

Sonic smiled to himself. "One day I'll show them," he said softly.

"What?" Johnny hadn't attempted the climb, and was sitting below, inside the loop.

"I said," Sonic peered over the edge, beaming, "I'm gonna run this loop!"

He thumped his fist against the stone for emphasis. Johnny grinned back up at him. Despite his scepticism earlier, he could see how close the hedgehog had come to completing a whole circuit. And Sonic knew it too, so he wouldn't be giving up anytime soon- especially after what Lance had said. Nothing made Sonic more determined to do something than someone saying he couldn't.

"I didn't think it was possible, but you nearly did it this time," Johnny congratulated.

"Yeah! I just need to be a little bit faster…" he trailed off into a thoughtful silence, but with Sonic such silences were always short- Johnny had taken to counting the seconds, and sure enough he had only counted to five when Sonic abruptly started talking again. "-Hey, were those rings a good idea, or were those rings a good idea?"

"Yep, Sonic, those rings were a good idea," the rabbit echoed, amused at his friend's usual utter lack of humility.

"Maybe I'll try three next time," the hedgehog mused.

Jokingly, Johnny replied with: "How many of those do you think I can throw? I'm warning you, I'm stopping at fifty."

"Oh ha ha." Sonic played with the idea for a moment. "Fifty rings? I'd probably explode or something!"

"Sonic? Please tell me you're not going to try it."

The hedgehog just laughed.

Sonic's other talent- besides running- was using the golden rings that could be found floating in midair all over Mobius for a quick energy boost. When asked, he described it as being 'like caffeine, only better'- and as far as he knew nobody else could do it. The rings didn't have any other use anyway. Many Mobians called them 'fool's gold' for although they had a very attractive golden yellow colour, as soon as they were scratched or otherwise tampered with they simply disintegrated into golden sparks and disappeared. Sometimes they did that on their own after a while, and tended to appear out of nothing just as spontaneously. You couldn't make anything useful out of a gold ring so they were simply regarded as curiosities and often ended up as safe playthings for Mobian children. Which is how Sonic discovered his ability.

The rings weighed next to nothing and felt warm to the touch, or so Sonic had been told. Not that he knew, as a ring always became absorbed as soon as he brushed against it whether he wanted it to or not.

"So how come you're so determined to do this, Sonic?" Johnny asked eventually, for the second time that day. "In fact, you're always doing this kind of thing. Running along things, jumping off things… the more dangerous the better."

They had had this conversation a number of times. Sonic answered him the way he always did: which was to shrug, smile enigmatically and say, "I want to be faster."

The answer to Johnny's question was partly boredom. Apart from bullying types such as Lance and Brindle, the equivalent of whom existed in every civilisation on every world in every universe, Emerald Hill was almost idyllic. But the village was also far too quiet and the people content with their slow pace of life. Nothing ever really changed in Emerald Hill. It offered little with which an active, adventurous young hedgehog like Sonic could occupy his time, apart from exploring and testing his abilities against the hills, cliffs, and odd semi-ruined stone structures that had become his personal obstacle course.

The Zone was home, and it was beautiful, but nothing ever happened.

However, Sonic's risk taking was mainly because he never felt so alive as when he was running. He was rightfully proud of his speed- as far as he knew hedgehogs were not known for being good sprinters. But after years of training himself around Emerald Hill he could outrun anyone in the Zone. He could sprint at over thirty miles per hour easily- and if he really pushed himself he could reach much greater speeds for a short time, a little longer if he had rings.

People had occasionally suggested half-jokingly that there had been a cheetah somewhere in Sonic's ancestry, and certain unpleasant individuals had taken to whispering 'mutation!' nastily behind his back. Being an orphan Sonic could not dispute either of these claims, but they did not have the power to discourage him for long.

Sonic ran. He was driven to improve his skills further. I can do better, he was forever telling himself. The buzz he got from beating his own record was always short-lived and quickly replaced by restlessness and an urge to do it all over again, but faster. Sonic had one particular goal that he was aiming for and he would not stop until he had reached it- no matter how impossible it seemed.

Lately he had been frustrated by the fact that his times had not been improving much, as if perhaps he had reached the limit of what his body could do. Not that he would ever admit that.

However, today he felt buoyed with enthusiasm, so much so that not even his failure to run the loop or Lance and Brindle's bullying could sour his mood for more than a few minutes. Perhaps it was because- as he saw it- he had finally thrown off the shackles of school and was free to do as he pleased. Or maybe because of a feeling he had that something, at last, was going to happen.

Sonic gazed at the distant Metropolis, a breeze from the ocean whispering in his brown fur. Yes, although nothing ever changed in Emerald Hill, today he could sense change in the air and everything seemed possible. He was filled with certainty that soon his life would finally take him out of the mundane Hill Zones, that he would get to see places like that city and when he did he would be doing something that mattered, even though he did not know yet what it might be. And most importantly of all, he would prove to the villagers- he would prove to Mobius- that he wasn't just 'that useless Sonic kid'.

One day his name would mean something.

Sonic had been roughly five years old when he had staggered into Emerald Hill Village, weak and half-drowned. He'd had no memory of anything apart from his name. That too was nearly taken from him after the village council failed to discover where the little hedgehog had come from or who his family may have been. It wasn't a proper name after all. But he was stubborn even then, and they eventually gave in.

Speed was his talent, Sonic was his name, and all his life he had been determined to live up to it.

Sonic aimed to be the first Mobian ever to break the sound barrier on foot.