Disclaimer: Sonic the Hedgehog is copyrighted and produced by Sega. The plot is the only thing that belongs to me, and no profit is made in any way through this story.
Author's Note: This takes just after Sonic Adventure 2, where Sonic and his friends had just left the main room of Space Colony ARK.
Patching Up the Blood
Never a Bright Moment
The people on Earth were rejoicing like it was a universal New Year's Eve party.
On international broadcast (or a broadcast that Eggman himself hacked into, whichever any of you believed it to be), they all watched both Sonic and Shadow defeat the ARK prototype and used Chaos Control to transport the space colony to its normal orbit. That was when the crowd realized that the Earth was saved from ultimate destruction. Everyone immediately turned from worried and nervous to jubilance and relief, as people either danced on the street, kissed their loved ones, honked their horns, sprinkled confetti, or prayed to those superior than the rest. It was a very huge party out there right now, and it could be found at just about every corner of the Earth.
However, during the midst of all this excitement, they all forgot about two things: What happened to both Sonic and Shadow, and was going on inside the ARK?
For the first time since they explored the area, Space Colony ARK felt lifeless.
Wherever they walked, they noticed no signs of activity. The military robots from the Guardian Units of Nations had either been shut down or destroyed in the raid. The menacing machines used for guarding the station for any future invaders could be found in one of three ways: tilting downwards while being in midair (similar to petals of a flower wilting), shattered and burnt into millions of pieces, or squashed and flattened. Along several hallways, the light bulbs that shone brightly since their arrival (since Eggman activated them, to be precise) flickered continually. And a bit of a chill possibly entered the structure, since some form of artificial wind wafted across the group every now and then, making the environment uncomfortable for some of them… specifically Sonic.
"I can't wait to be back on Earth again," shivered the "blue blur" as he crossed his bare arms over his chest, one that consisted of the same goose bumps his arms had, although not as tingly. "This place is starting to become too cold for me."
"That's new," said Eggman jokingly, who was walking behind Sonic. "Our blue hedgehog, Sonic, daring and defiant, feeling cold and 'defenseless.'"
Sonic looked back upon hearing he word "defenseless." Boy, how much he hated that word so much… especially when it came from the words of his biggest rival. A word, one of weakness and hopelessness, could instigate such annoyance, such bruising in his ego.
However, he came to his senses – sort of – and quickly calmed down; just like any enemy, it was expected for him to be toyed with every now and then.
"I should know better when and if he ever plays tricks or jokes on me like that."
Logic had room for defiance, but common sense had none; so that a hedgehog for his belated considering.
"Well, at least he's being impatient," added Knuckles as he walked a little ahead, carrying the Master Emerald with his right hand, "so he's definitely in his normal state."
Wow, that was unexpected, he thought subconsciously.
Eggman scoffed upon hearing Knuckles's statement and, with his slim right foot, kicked over one of the flattened robots.
"Yeah, normal as he can be," the scientist quipped, giving the destroyed machine a side-glare.
For the first time in his life, he had never imagined that robots were such deterrence. These G.U.N. robots were machines that Eggman loathed, rather than being liked as usual. Pests, they were – absolute pests. It was absolutely abominable for machines to be designed and constructed for the purpose of what was supposed to be "protection." Corruption was mentally tasty, yet so physically terrifying, too. Hmm… maybe he could steal some of the robots from one of G.U.N.'s military bases and reprogram them to where they were at his allegiance rather than the government's.
Not right now, though. It was best to consider it later… the time when he absolutely needed to conquer the world.
"Hey, knock it off, you two," scolded Amy while walking along Sonic's left. Her arms were crisscrossed authoritatively, her green eyes glared sternly, and her eyebrows furrowed. "Sonic has had a rough few days, and he needs a little break now and then, so lighten up with the jokes, will ya?"
"It's okay, Amy," shrugged Sonic with a light-hearted wave with his left hand, ignoring the tingling sensations that zoomed up his bare arms and chest. Goosebumps were so foreign for him, and the feeling was not so pleasant. "I need to be hit with a joke every now and then. Nevertheless, thanks for defending me."
"Hey, it's my job to keep my eye on you, didn't ya know that?" replied Amy with a smile.
"Oh, boy," thought Sonic and rolled his eyes. How many times he heard that from her before, but he might as well enjoy it while it lasted, perhaps.
"Oh, how sweet," teased Eggman and played with the left side of his moustache with his left hand. Such an innocent posture he was in – it was a total shock since he was the enemy of the group… Not. "Sonic and Amy are playing 'kissy-face' with each other."
"Oh, so they're on a date now?" teased Rouge, her big teal eyes gazing slyly behind her. Do not blame her for acting like this; it was merely natural for her to look at people like that, especially in a mood to poke a little bit of fun at someone. "I never knew that."
"Hey, cut it out already," interrupted Sonic impatiently. "I don't mind being teased, but not right now and not when it gets this personal." He then looked back and whispered, "No offense, Amy," in her right ear.
"None taken, Sonic," answered Amy with a whisper of her own, before looking at Eggman crossly and saying, "Don't even try it."
Eggman did nothing except look up at the flickering ceiling and whistle innocently.
Well, except the "innocent" part, of course.
Unfortunately, neither Sonic nor Amy comprehended as to why or why he was whistling, but that did not stop them from looking at him with eagle eyes.
Everyone, however, did understand Eggman's behavior, but looked ahead so Sonic and Amy would not cast them looks of suspicion, too.
From Sonic's right, Tails, however, could not resist a chuckle as he covered his snickering mouth with his right hand and held the controls of the Cyclone with the other. He might be Sonic's and Amy's friend, but he longed to crack a joke at them, too, mainly Sonic, since they were so close friendship-wise. Nevertheless, he decided to wait. Right now, getting back to the shuttle was his – as well as the others' – main priority.
His mood quickly turned curious upon turning his head to the glass windows at the right-hand side. The Earth below looked bright and shiny, similar to a round sapphire glistening in the summer sunlight. Clouds encircled the atmosphere of the blue planet, especially over the continent of Africa. From what Tails could depict, he noticed every continent, from North America, to Asia, even Australia from the lower right-hand corner. Only the sheet of ice called Antarctica was missing. Curse the ARK for floating at such an angle where he could not see it, and he was interested in spotting it, too.
"Maybe, if I could tinker the controls one day, I could detour one of the satellites to where I actually can see Antarctica from outer space," the two-tailed fox thought with interest, but a loud yawn followed. He was certainly not doing that today.
Sky blue eyes wavered a little more towards the right and at a specific area. Between the Earth and the bottom of the window panel were two dim, transparent layers of gold and pale yellow ambient light, and from what looked like an aura aiming away from him, it came from the ARK towards a cloud at the equator in the form of a faint beam.
Tails quickly looked down at the floor (although keeping the tops of his irises at the scene), went into a pondering position, and caressed the ends of his chin with a free finger. There was something interesting regarding this fading beam of light, he could tell; but there was a small problem. He was having trouble recalling anything familiar with it… if there definitely was anything he could recognize. If only he could jog into his memory bank and try harder to remember it.
Although he could not see it, Sonic noticed Tails's posture and turned to him.
"What is it, Tails?" he asked.
"I don't know, but I think I see some line of light over there." The fox looked up and pointed at it with his right index finger.
Gripping his left arm tightly, Sonic walked to the window and looked at the light. Upon seeing it, the chill that rushed down his arm vanished, and his green eyes became solemn and sad, something Tails did not notice.
While they gawked at that beam, the others had already gone ahead a few yards. But when they realized that they were not with them, they looked back and saw both Sonic and Tails stare down at some form of target.
"What's going on, you two?" asked Knuckles, the Master Emerald still in his possession.
"We're looking there, Knuckles," replied Tails and pointed at the trail, his gaze frozen upon it.
Knuckles followed the gesture, and his violet eyes quickly became fixed on it.
Everyone else noticed and followed their attention towards that fading light trail, too.
"It's fascinating, although it's disappearing," said Rouge.
"I have to agree with that. It is a nice sight," replied Knuckles, although keeping a close watch on the Master Emerald. Rouge might not be interested in the gemstone anymore – or so she claimed – but coming from her, you would never know if she was telling the truth or not.
"Ditto what Knuckles said," concurred Eggman, although he did not obtain a calm, happy expression at all. In fact, his face was a mixture of both curiosity and solemnity. "But something tells me that there's something more with this light."
"There is," replied Sonic.
The group turned to him, where they (finally) noticed his prolonged sad expression.
"I know whom that light belonged to," he croaked and began his short story.
"The moment I arrived back at the colony's entrance, I looked behind and noticed that Shadow was missing. Panicking, I floated around the orbit to find him, and a few more moments later, I saw that light trail facing toward the Earth and followed its direction. As I started flying, I noticed a figure plummeting towards Earth, and I dove quickly to try to save him. When I was close enough to see the person completely, I realized who it was."
His eyes began to become watery.
"The figure belonged to Shadow."
"Yep, it was Shadow," he said and laughed mirthlessly. "Once I saw, I went into a quicker dive and hoped to get to his reach, but…"
He was choking on potential tears now.
"But what?" asked Knuckles impatiently.
"…But I lost my power of being Super, and I was transported back here."
Upon saying that, the bottom brim of his eyes produced tears.
"If I was only able to remain super for a few more seconds…" he gave the glass panel a hard pound out of frustration, "…then I would've been able to save him."
He could not hold on anymore as he let his tears finally run down the sides of his face.
Everyone looked at him with a lot of remorse. Usually, whenever they saw Sonic, they saw him as being strong-willed, prideful, and being able to move forward in his life. Only this time, the pride was not there, he was apparently stuck with not being able to save Shadow, and his strong-willed attitude that filled his conscience was nonexistent. All of it was replaced with guilt, regret, and sorrow. Never in their lives did they ever see Sonic express himself like this, not even Tails, and he knew him better than anyone!
Speaking of Tails, he quickly had the desire to comfort him, so he climbed down the Cyclone and placed his left hand on his right shoulder.
"Don't beat yourself down, Sonic," he said kindly.
"But I could've saved him, Tails," argued Sonic, tears continuing to fall down the sides of his muzzle. "I was not able to save him, and I couldn't."
Tails mentally beat himself for his accidentally tactless sentence, but continued nevertheless.
"Sonic, there will be times where you will always encounter circumstances where you will not be able to save someone."
Tails ignored Eggman's interruption.
"None of us wants that to happen, but it did, and it will likely happen again. But you can't beat yourself down for it. You will have to cope with it and let it go." He quickly paled and shook his head after realizing what he had just said. "Sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
"I should learn more about how to deal with tact," he added to himself frustratingly. Hitting himself in the head with Amy's Piko-Piko Hammer for his own stupidity sounded like a really good idea right now.
Sonic, however, shook his head kindly and wiped the tears off his eyes.
"It's okay, buddy," he said reassuringly. "I understand what you're saying, and I thank you for it." He looked back down at the planet. "I shouldn't have to constantly beat myself down for not being able to save him… although I still believe I should."
"But you didn't for that long," argued Rouge. "You just started grieving."
"I know. I'm just being a little bit figurative," said Sonic, his gaze still at the Earth. "I will continue to mourn for his loss, but I should also try to move on and keep some of the positives that Shadow did in me. Besides," he added, "I don't believe that Shadow wanted me to save him, so he can finally be in peace."
"Perhaps, you might be right," said Knuckles. "Maybe, that's a mystery that may never be solved."
"Or a mystery that Shadow wants to be remained unsolved," added Rouge.
"Quite likely," agreed Tails and climbed back in the Cyclone's cockpit.
"Hey! Where did Eggman go?" he asked everyone afterwards.
He soon found out as static was heard from the machine's built-in radio system.
"Sorry that I couldn't attend your memorial service for Shadow, but I have emergency errands to run back down at Earth, ones that are more important than you realize."
"What plans?" asked Sonic peculiarly as he and everyone else looked at the machine.
"Why, planning to conquer the planet, of course," came the sneaky reply.
"Just as I thought," muttered Sonic.
"I heard that, hedgehog!!" the scientist thundered, causing everyone to jump slightly. "Well, it was nice seeing you again. Until next battle, ta-ta."
With a loud crackle of static, the doctor cut off the message.
"Well, that's just great," snorted Rouge, cross from the doctor's audacity. "At least he should've stayed to honor Shadow."
"Well, always expect this from him, Rouge," advised Knuckles as he looked at his left.
"You can bet that I will," she replied in an annoyed tone and huffed in disgust.
"Never mind him," said Sonic as he turned to the group, cutting off the conversation between the echidna and the bat. The last thing he wanted to discuss following a brief time of mourning was calculating when Eggman would set up his next attack. "C'mon. Let's return to the shuttle and go home."
"I can't agree with you more," said Knuckles and eyed the Master Emerald. "I want my island to float in the sky again. Only this time…" he glared at Rouge, who looked up at the flickering ceiling and pretended to be the innocent bat girl that would not harm a wasp, "…I don't want any interruptions."
Sonic and Tails laughed from their behaviors, specifically Knuckles's. His overprotective attitude was just like the usual echidna that they grew up with.
"Well, let's get going," said Sonic and turned to Tails. "Lead the way."
"Roger," responded the fox as he subsequently passed everyone and headed off towards the entranceway at the other side of the corridor.
Sonic and the others followed him, anticipating their arrival to the shuttle.
However, as everyone approached the door, Sonic (who was behind Tails) stopped walking and looked around.
"Has anyone seen Amy since we started walking again?" the hedgehog asked.
Everyone gave a quick glance around them and shook their heads.
"She might've stayed at the area where we looked at the light," explained Tails.
"I'll check it out," Sonic decided briskly and ran back the way he came.
Sure enough, when he returned, he noticed Amy looking out at outer space. To be specific, she was looking at the transparent streak of luminosity. Her gloved hands touched the glass with utmost care, like a mother carrying a small child; and her eyes looked very morbid.
Sonic had a feeling what triggered her expression, and he started to become very sad, too.
"It's about Shadow, I believe."
Nevertheless, he wanted to be sure, just to make sure he was not thinking incorrectly.
Amy nodded, depressed. "As you told your tale, it made me think about my talk with him prior to you two fighting the Final Hazard, when I was able to convince him what Maria's true wish was – that it was to help others rather than what Shadow perceived it to be."
A tear suddenly rolled down the left side of her tan muzzle.
"It gave me some thoughts of him."
She looked down at the floor, and a teardrop that hung on the bottom of her cheek fell to the floor, splashing lightly.
"I miss him already, Sonic. I wish I could see him one more time."
She closed her eyes as she started crying silently.
Sonic looked down again, feeling more mournful than before. He never enjoyed grieving very much; he always felt that it would hold him back. That he would not be able to progress forward in life.
Nevertheless, he felt lamenting was the right thing to do. Grieving was a way to make someone feel better, and he knew that it showed compassion for someone, even for the ones mourning alongside him.
"I miss him, too, Amy," said Sonic kindly as he wrapped his right hand across the back of her head and gently placing it on her right shoulder, letting her know that he was giving her support and sympathy. "I miss him, too."
For Amy, this was comfort through her sobs: the calm, compassionate words from her friend, from the hedgehog that usually ran away from her. This was the time to finally let her sudden sorrow out, as she wrapped her arms around him and cried even more.
Sonic always felt uncomfortable whenever she – or anyone else – embraced him, but he did not care. Then was Amy being hyperactive and wanting to wrap her hands around Sonic like a scarf. This was different. She was in no mood to chase him around at all, she needed comfort really badly. And he did so by stroking the back of her head as they gingerly returned to Tails and the others.
"Where's Sonic?" wondered Knuckles as he sat in a red window seat in the middle of the shuttle, the Master Emerald occupying the aisle seat on his left.
"He should be back soon, Knuckles," replied Tails as he sat the cockpit and prepared for the shuttle's takeoff. "He might be still looking for Amy at the moment."
"I agree with him. Just remain patient, he'll be back soon," agreed Rouge, who occupied a seat on the other side of the aisle.
"I'll try," said Knuckles as he leaned on the window jamb with his right elbow and placed his chin on his palm. His look of persistent anxiousness remained on his face like a stain on a carpet.
However, moments later, he looked at the window and noticed Sonic walking toward the shuttle, comforting Amy along the way.
"Finally, he's here," the echidna grumbled to himself.
The door from the front of the shuttle was slowly pushed open, and both Sonic and Amy went inside.
Tails heard them enter and turned to his right. "Hi, Sonic. Hi, Amy," he greeted, and Sonic (a gloomy look on his face) nodded back in reply. "You two are mourning Shadow?"
"Mm-hmm," said Sonic as he closed and tightly locked the spaceship door.
He aided Amy to a red window seat that was located both in the front and a few feet behind Tails. Sonic sat at the aisle seat beside her.
Tails looked back and sympathetically glanced at Amy. From what he could depict, she was hit very hard by Shadow's death, possibly by either hearing Sonic's story or going through the aftereffects of his death.
Afterwards, he cleared his mind and proceeded to continue playing with the controls until everything was ready for the shuttle to leave the ARK.
"We'll be clearing for takeoff as I get everything set," he told everybody before pressing a button on the right side.
Around them, the doors entering the portal quickly closed, and through the cockpit windows, they could see the hatch opening slowly, creating a runway.
Tails touched another mechanism with his left hand, and there was a loud hum coming from the back of the rocket. From what everybody could tell, he touched the ignition that activated both the engines and the afterburners.
More controls were then switched on, and Tails put his hands firmly on the wheel.
"All right, guys!" he exclaimed, causing everybody, sans Amy, to pay attention to him. "Hang on tight; we're ready for takeoff!"
He pressed a pedal with his right foot, and the shuttle began zooming down the runway at a very high speed, about three hundred miles per hour, to be more precise. Before everyone knew, the shuttle was flying further and further away from the ARK.
Everyone that sat in chairs adjacent to the windows looked out and stared at the Earth with absolute awe. The blue aura glowed brightly, showing signs of dignified excellence. The water looked clean and fresh; the continents showed signs of life, even if some of the areas looked very arid; and the clouds danced and swirled like they were twisting their hips underneath a gigantic, but invisible, disco ball. Although it was nice watching it from the ARK, it was even better while flying around it.
Tails enjoyed the view, for he occasionally glanced over the wheel to witness this spectacular; but he mostly kept his eye on the controls and tried not to get too distracted by it.
Sonic looked down at the planet through the cockpit window as he sat in the aisle chair. While paying attention towards the planet, he was starting to feel a little better after grieving with Amy for Shadow and his death.
Speaking of Amy, he started wondering how she was coping with the aftereffects of Sonic's "rival's" passing, so he turned to his left, where he noticed she was looking out the window.
"Are you feeling okay?"
Amy nodded briefly, her eyes watching the planet. "I'm doing better, Sonic," she replied solemnly.
Sonic left it at that as he resumed looking straight ahead.
She, meanwhile, continued to look at the planet with gloomy eyes and once again noticed the faint beam of light far away. It was slowly disappearing from view, but she was still able to notice it. Unfortunately, tired eyes quickly control of her mind, body, and soul, replacing the grief she obtained while aboard the ARK, and as a result, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
If she had stayed awake for about one more minute, she would have noticed a small, bright glow of pale yellow light breaking through one of the clouds…