DISCLAIMER: Characters, places, and objects are trademarks of Sega, Sonic Team, and/or Sonic Project

Author's Note:
Part three begins with a conversation between Chris and Sonic before going back to Shadow and Maria's search for the Chaos Emeralds. I wanted to revive a character trait of Chris': Never wanting to be lonely. That subject hadn't been touched upon since episode 50 of the original series and I felt it was always a part of Chris' character even after he grew up and matured. But don't worry, he won't be all whiny now that he's an adult. Just wanted to give you a heads up. Oh, just a reminder: Maria is more involved in this fic than she was in the game due to the fact that she joined the "Sonic X" cast since my first fic in the series, "Welcome Back, Sonic". (Read said fic to see how.) She's skilled in martial arts since she learned from Professor Gerald, her grandfather and Shadow's creator, which explains how Shadow learned to fight. So, Maria can fight along side Sonic and the gang should the situation call for it. Anyway, let's get back in this!

Chapter 7 - It's a Jungle Out Here

Back at the Thorndyke mansion, Chris leans on the balcony rail outside his room and worriedly looks at the blue sky. He is still concerned about Maria.

Sonic's voice calls to him, "Still worried about Maria, huh, Chris?"

Chris doesn't look up, but he knows that Sonic is standing behind him.

"It's that obvious, huh?" was Chris' reply.

Sonic approaches him and sits on the rail beside him.

"You've always been lonely since you were a kid," Sonic reminds him. "You told me yourself that your parents were always busy and didn't have much time for you."

Chris smiles, "Yeah." He looks at Sonic and explains, "That's why I didn't want you to leave this world."

Then, he sadly sighs and looks at the sky.

"Now that my parents adopted Maria as my sister, I feel like I fin'lly have someone to always keep me company," he admits. "But what if something bad happens to her? I don't wanna lose her so soon."

Sonic responds, "Who says you would?"

Chris curiously looks at Sonic.

"Remember, Shadow's with her," the blue hedgehog reminds him. "He'll protect her even if he doesn't remember he was her first friend. Ev'rything will be alright." He gives a thumbs up and winks, "You'll see."

Chris hangs his head down.

"I guess," he says in uncertainty.

Sonic assures him, "Well, if it makes you feel better," Chris curiously looks at Sonic who declares, "I'll go help 'em out."

He stands on the rail, getting ready to run.

"Don't wait up," he tells Chris.

Chris watches Sonic as he goes rushing off in a blue streak. He becomes concerned not only for Maria, but for Sonic as well.

"Be careful, both of you," thinks Chris.

Meanwhile, Shadow and Maria arrive in a dark forest through Chaos Control. Maria curiously looks around while Shadow just looks ahead in determination.

"I don't get it. Why would a Chaos Emerald be hidden in a dark place such as this?" wonders Maria.

Shadow responds, "Hmph. And I thought I was the one with amnesia." Maria looks at him as he explains, "It's not for us to decide where the Chaos Emeralds should be." He starts walking forward and instructs, "Now, let's go get it."

Maria becomes determined and nods in agreement before following Shadow. They look around the forest, then, stop and gasp as they notice some Black Hawks flying toward them. They become determined and assume fighting poses. Then, they jump up and start fighting the hawks, Shadow Chaos Spears them as Maria kicks and punches them down. Eventually, all those Black Hawks lay defeated and disintegrate with a flash of light as Shadow and Maria look on, then, continue walking through the forest in search of a Chaos Emerald. Soon, they stop and gasp as they look up: In front of them is the tallest tree in the forest and hovering at its tip is the light blue Chaos Emerald! Maria giggles at this while Shadow just smiles.

"There it is!" Maria exclaims.

"Now, we just have to get it," Shadow confirms.

They look ahead and walk toward the tree, but stop and gasp in surprise as a trio of Black Oaks jump in front of them and give fighting poses, blocking the way. Maria is worried while Shadow is angry.

"They're not gonna make this easy for us, are they?" is Maria's reply

"I am getting fed up with all these distractions," Shadow protests.

Maria looks on as Shadow charges toward the Black Oaks and fights all three with kicks and punches. The oaks don't go down since they are the strongest of the aliens, but that doesn't prevent them from feeling pain with each hit. Shadow gets hit, too, as the Black Oaks punch him, one by one. He briefly gets knocked down to his knees, but he wipes his lower lip and gets back up and continues fighting. He holds back one of the Black Oaks' arms as he looks back at Maria.

"Maria, see if you can get that Chaos Emerald!" Shadow instructs Maria.

"But what about you?" she asks him in concern.

"I'll keep them busy. Now, go!" he commands.

He looks back at the Black Oak as he pushes its arms away, tossing the alien back, but not down. The Black Oak quickly recovers and charges at Shadow as do the other two, but Shadow fights back. Maria becomes determined and rushes to the tree, passing Shadow and the Black Oak. She then proceeds to climb the tree to get to the Chaos Emerald hovering above it. A branch cracks beneath her foot, causing her to briefly lose her balance, but she recovers and continues to climb. Meanwhile, Shadow punches one Black Oak, jump-kicks another, and punches the third. They quickly recover from the blows and then, proceed to punch Shadow. He blocks the first two, but gets knocked down by the third. He lays on the ground as the Black Oaks walk toward him. Meanwhile, Maria is halfway to the top, but as she grabs the next branch, it breaks off the tree, causing her to fall with a frightened scream. Shadow gasps in horror upon seeing this.

"Maria!" he calls out to her.

The Black Oaks look at Maria falling upon hearing Shadow call to her. However, Maria quickly grabs a sturdy branch which stops her from falling.

Maria wipes her brow in relief, "Whew!"

She starts climbing again as the Black Oaks approach the tree while Shadow looks at Maria in relief.

"That was close," Shadow thinks. "Wouldn't want you to get hurt."

Suddenly, he groans and rubs his forehead as he gets a vision of him taking her down the hallway of the Space Colony ARK as Professor Gerald Robotnik worriedly follows while military soldiers, with rifles in their arms, go after them. Maria is worriedly looking at the soldiers as Shadow is determined to lead her to safety. The memory quickly vanishes as Shadow snaps out of it.

"Another vision. Stronger this time," he thinks. "I was protecting Maria from some soldiers. But what for? What could all this mean?"

He then gasps in shock as he notices the trio of Black Oaks walk toward the base of the tree which Maria's climbing up. Shadow then becomes angry and rushes toward the Black Oaks. One of them winds up to punch the tree to knock Maria off, but Shadow jump-kicks it into the other two Black Oaks, knocking them out of the way. They quickly regain their balance and charge toward Shadow who then starts glowing red as he growls and brings his fists up to his chest.

He starts, "Chaos..." Then, he quickly brings his fists down, tilts his head back, and closes his eyes as he shouts out, "...Blast!"

Upon these words, the red glow expands out into a red dome of light covering the Black Oaks, destroying them. Then, the red light from the Chaos Blast fades as Shadow stands by the base of the tree in determination. He looks up and notices Maria climbing to the top. She reaches for the Chaos Emerald.

"Come on," he encourages.

Maria's hand gets closer to the emerald as she struggles to grab it.

"Come on," Shadow encourages.

Finally, Maria triumphantly grabs the Chaos Emerald.

"Yes!" Shadow excitedly proclaims.

Maria happily calls to Shadow, "Shadow!" She tosses the Chaos Emerald to Shadow and tells him, "Catch!"

He catches the emerald and looks at it. Then, he curiously hears some screeching. He looks behind him and notices a flock of Black Hawks coming toward him. He looks up at Maria in concern.

"Maria!" he calls to her.

Maria nods in determination, knowing that it's time to go. She then jumps down from the tree toward Shadow as he holds the Chaos Emerald above his head.

"Chaos Control!" he shouts out.

The light of Chaos Control then engulfs Shadow and soon, Maria falls into the light, engulfing her as well. As the light fades, they have disappeared through Chaos Control, just as the Black Hawks arrive. Meanwhile, Doom's Eye hovers above the forest.

"Shadow is starting to remember," Doom's Eye acknowledges. "But no matter. By the time he recovers his memory, it will be too late to stop the ritual."

He laughs evilly as the flock of Black Hawks fly up past the treetops.

Ooh, Black Doom's still planning his ritual and it doesn't sound good. Here's hoping Shadow and Maria can stop it in time. So, until next chapter, you know the drill.