I promised this by June 10th – here is The Dark Side of the Moon!

Disclaimer: If I owned Sonic, he would have never said, "That Tornado is carrying a car!" in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. All characters belong to SEGA/Sonic Team.

Author's note: This'll be my only long author note until the end of the story, I promise. This story IS a sequel, but you shouldn't need to read my previous stuff to understand this (you can if you want, of course). Any references to past stories will be explained, so you'll be just as caught-up as all the people who've been reading the series for a while. I WILL recap past events better in this story than I have previously, to fill in all the I'm-confused gaps. M'kay?

There are so many different genres this falls under: action, adventure, friendship, tragedy, hurt/comfort, and maybe even drama and angst… but unfortunately, you can only pick two, so I had to go with action/adventure and friendship.

I think you'll find this story to be the most 'Sonic-y' out of all my stories. My others are Sonic-y, too, but this one has a lot of familiar elements. To be specific, it might have a Sonic Adventure 2 sort of atmosphere to it… though the storyline is different. You'll see what I mean. I can't say too much without spoiling it.

It's Sonic-y in one more respect, as well. By that, I mean that this story is largely (but not entirely, by any means) about Sonic himself. There'll be a lot of character development going on… and for the first time ever, you'll get a glimpse of how our ever-confident blue hero reacts to something tragic, something he's never been put through before. And in the midst of that, there's a huge threat slowly being uncovered…

Finally, if anyone's interested in seeing a music video based on this (don't worry, it won't spoil anything – it's just based on this first chapter) go to my profile and use the link at the top – it'll take you to my Youtube video.

Okay – now that I've tried (and epically failed) to make the author notes as short as possible, let the adventure begin.

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PROLOGUE

They say friendship can survive anything.

But that can be interpreted in so many different ways, depending on how you look at it. Does anything mean absolutely anything? Fights, disagreements, beliefs, distance…? Or should the word survival be taken a little more literally?

Can friendship survive death?

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CHAPTER 1: Conversations With the Atmosphere

I was sitting on top of a streetlight, arms folded and legs dangling, staring out at what used to be a city.

You wouldn't know it by looking at it now.

Only one word came to mind when I looked at the demolished buildings, the zombie-like minions, and the polluted skies: devastation. Sometimes, I couldn't even believe it was the same place it used to be. But it was. It had just changed.

I was cool with change. I was adaptable. But when you were stuck in a place like this with almost no hope of escaping, and when you were forced to watch it get rebuilt in the vision of your worst enemy, it was oppressing. And depressing. I'd never really resided anywhere for long, but Station Square had been the closest thing to a home I had.

I'd done everything in my power to find out how to fix things – or at least, that was what I tried to convince myself of. Tails would have wanted me to, and quite frankly, I wanted to. I was bored, and people were in danger. They were still in danger. The sad part was that I hadn't managed to accomplish anything in three months. That frustrated me to no end; not being able to do anything for anyone. But what could I do when an unbreakable barrier was keeping me from going anywhere beyond a forty-mile radius? It was powered by five Chaos Emeralds, so it wasn't like I could just break through it.

For a second, I wondered how Eggman had managed to find those five Emeralds so quickly. Then I remembered Tails and I had been unconscious for six months. I knew he must've gathered them while we were in that comatose state.

We had been unconscious because Eggman poisoned us both and then put us in a state of vegetation. We were left to die. By some miracle of nature, I woke up. When I got Tails out of Grand Metropolis, he woke up, too, with a little help. The next month of our lives had a race against time, trying to find a way to kill the poison before the poison killed us.

Naturally, when I realized there was only one antidote, I wanted Tails to take it. But Tails had already known there wouldn't be enough for both of us. In hindsight, I imagined he knew I would try to make him take it. Clever and smart as he was, though, he tricked me into thinking there was another antidote in the base that he could use.

I'd been suffering and was pretty weak at the time, so it didn't strike me as suspicious when he told me to drink it and then ran off. Of course he would want me to take the first one; I wasthe one on the verge of death.

I figured it out the hard way some time later. And by then, of course, we had run out of time. I survived; he didn't.

That was three months ago exactly. I had kept track, even though I never intended to.

I was okay now, though. Or at least closer to it. I knew I had to keep moving forward; there were too many bad things going on for me to wallow in misery. Eggman was still out there, the barrier was still up, and there were still people who needed help. In spite of everything that had happened, I couldn't turn away. The world needed me. I knew that.

But for the first few weeks after he… died… I had been in the worst state of my life.

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I stood outside his workshop, just staring at it, trying to make myself believe that Tails would never again walk in there; trying to make myself believe that he was buried beneath the very ground I ran every day. It felt more like daydream than reality. I walked around the side of it and stood in front of the Tornado's garage. For a second – a split second – I saw Tails standing there, giving me a thumbs-up, telling me that when he opened the garage, I would see how awesome his new plane or whatever was.

I was just so used to that kind of thing.

Then it disappeared, leaving an aftereffect, a lot like when you look away from a bright light and yet still see it in front of you. Right there, I crashed to my knees and slammed my fists on the ground. I was overcome with despair… anguish… rage. I screamed, and my voice made it sound like I was experiencing some terrible physical agony. My breath came in rough, strained gasps. I actually had to try at it to be able to breathe right.

After a while, I was too worn. I collapsed on the pavement, winded. I stayed that way for hours. I didn't sob; I was never much of a crier. I just laid there, defeated, on the runway.

For those few hours, everything Tails and I had ever done together rushed in and out of my head. All the experiences, all the adventures, all the memories. Every admiring smile he ever directed at me. Every brave move he ever made on my behalf. Every leisurely fly in the Tornado. Every moment of triumph we shared… that we would never again be able to share. It all seemed so far away now, almost like none of it ever even happened. It was all gone.

Every painful experience, like the first time we transformed with the Super Emeralds together on the Death Egg all those years ago. Every delightful experience, like the time he tackled me to the ground in a hug while I was in my Super form because he was just so relieved to see me okay. I wished he was there to do that again.

Everything he ever said to me, like the day we watched the sunset not long before he died: "I guess… when you're days from possible death… you start thinking about your life, the good and the bad. And you start thinking about the people who matter to you, and you want them to know they matter to you." I wanted to be able to let him know he mattered to me, too. He had already known, but at that moment, I wanted to reiterate it over and over and over anyway. But he would never hear the words, no matter how many times I said them or how loudly I screamed. He would never hear the words.

And there was the day he actually… passed. "Please don't leave. Don't leave me." He had wanted me there so he wouldn't have to die alone in his dark room. I had insisted on going to find another antidote; on making one last effort to keep the kid alive. I never found one. He died alone in his dark room. I wished I had stayed with him.

Everything he ever did for me, like keep me above the water after that disastrous plane crash because I couldn't swim. I wished with a passion I could have swam for myself that day instead of putting him through all that hassle.

Above all, though… I wished I could have gone back in time, made things different for him…

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My daydream about that emotionally tormenting night came to an abrupt – and welcome – pause. Some sort of physical discomfort had snapped me out of it, and I realized as I drifted back to reality that it was beginning to rain. The water was cold and penetrating, soaking easily through my fur and onto my skin. It bothered me.

When had I become so vulnerable?

I sat there for another moment, letting myself get wet, and realized that I had just reflected on the past. I had just brought terrible emotions back to the surface without even meaning to.

And I had… regrets.

But I… had never dwelled on anything long enough to regret it before.

I shook my head, as if that was going to clear away the still-lingering ache; the sense of loss. It didn't. It still hurt. I sighed dismally and, after a moment, pushed myself off the streetlight and landed on the ground.

A run would feel good, even if I only had a few hundred square miles to work with.

I didn't even warm up… not that I usually did anyway. I just blasted forward, breaking the sound barrier in a matter of seconds. I imagined a speedometer reaching its maximum number and blowing up as I pushed myself faster, feeling the pressure of the wind against my body. My quills flew straight back behind me, and my eyes went dry. I blinked a few times.

I found myself near the edge of the barrier. I slowed down and ran the entire perimeter, avoiding getting too close since I really didn't want to be electrocuted at the moment. There were still only five Emeralds powering the barrier, I noticed. I wondered where the other two were.

I realized as I ran that I had figured one thing out over the past three months: I had discovered the actual purposeof that barrier. Eggman had created it… because he wanted an empire. He wanted power. He didn't want people to be able to go inside or outside certain boundaries. The barrier was there because he had slaves and minions – real people – that he didn't want to escape. The barrier was there to keep outside G.U.N. branches from getting to him and ending his reign. There was one G.U.N. base within the boundaries, but he had already taken it over and stolen all its robots.

It never should have taken me as long as it did to figure that out. Shouldn't it have been obvious? Eggman had always wanted to create his own dictatorship.

The barrier stretched from the Mystic Ruins to Central City and Station Square, covering all the areas around and in between: forests, canyons, the volcano Tails and I had found the antidote in, and Eggman's old Dome Base. There used to be a way out through an underground subway system, but Eggman took care of that when he expanded the boundaries.

Of course, he was the only one who could get in and out of the barrier.

And of course, I hadn't been able to find him in three months.

On the other hand, though, that was probably a good thing – for both him and me. After what happened, I didn't know what I would do to him if I saw him again too soon. I didn't want to know what I would do to him if I saw him too soon.

I'd never had much of a hero complex, and so I didn't have a need to be the 'good guy' every time. All I cared about was giving people the freedom they deserved, even if it meant turning against authority or whatever and playing the role of the 'bad guy.' But despite that, I wanted to think there was a certain level of low I wouldn't sink to. If Eggman showed up, I knew I'd be tempted to sink to it.

And revenge made you just as bad as the other guy, right?

I ran faster, weaving in and out of trees as a forest began to surround me. Even at my velocity, I recognized the area. Tails and I had raced here one day, just for kicks. It had been the same day he told me he would die for me if it ever came down to it.

I growled under my breath and looped back around. I didn't want to be in places like this, places that reminded me of Tails. Not yet. I didn't want any reason to… to look back.

The forest quickly disappeared behind me – where it belonged – and I soon found myself back in a city. I wasn't sure which city it used to be; there were several in the empire. It was a different one, though; not Station Square.

I skidded to a halt and looked around. Reconstruction had already started here, I saw; huge factories were being built upon the ruins of old buildings. Prisons were all over the place. And off in the distance was a colossal tower. Its path appeared to be a winding spiral to the top. I wondered what was up there.

Had this place just gone under construction recently, or had I just whizzed by too quickly in the past to notice? I wasn't sure. I sort of shrugged, and then headed towards the tower. Time to see what was going on.

I ran at what I considered a slow pace, looking around as I went. The place somehow looked like Central City, but if you hadn't been there as many times as I had, you wouldn't have recognized it.

Things have really changed.

When I got to the tower, I realized it had been built where the airport used to be. Planes were scattered around with Eggman's logo on them – he had probably used the airport plane parts to redesign his own battle fleet. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Station Square had been destined to ruins a long time ago… but Central City, too? How had he done this so fast?

The tower was surrounded by a barb-wire fence. It was way too high to jump. If it was necessary, I knew I could climb it. It'd be rough to get over, but not impossible for me. Unless I had a reason to go in there, though, I wasn't going to bother getting myself hurt.

Through the fence, I noticed a sign above the entrance: Tempest City.

"What, not Egg-World or something?" I retorted aloud. My voice sounded strangely unusual to my ears, probably because I hadn't used it much lately. When there was nobody around to talk to, you really didn't bother talking to the atmosphere.

Nobody around to talk to. Again, that reminded me of Tails, but it also reminded me of a pressing problem: what had happened to all the residents of these cities? I wondered if some of them had gone into hiding, or fled before the barrier was expanded. Not all of them could have escaped, I knew, so that still didn't explain much. Had Eggman locked them away somewhere in the empire?

As I began to consider the possibilities, some sort of strong emotion pinched at my insides. It was… different, and it surprised me. Something unfamiliar, something aside from loss and loneliness. It wasn't much of an improvement, though.

Guilt.

Since I hadn't wanted to see Eggman again too soon, I had been subconsciously avoiding him. And with no one else around to stop his plans, innocent people had been captured and maybe even harmed. If I had noticed, or realized… could I have stopped it?

It didn't matter now. What's done was done. All I could do was fix it.

I turned around, ready to run off again. There was no point in staying where I was. Nothing could be accomplished. The best course of action, I knew, was to find Eggman.

Just as I took the first step, I heard a sonic boom resonate from far away.

And then I heard myself gasp.

I looked to the sky. Nothing. That meant that something on the ground had caused it. My heart began to speed up. That didn't make sense. I was the only thing that could move at the speed of sound. Wasn't I?

I almost began to doubt my own ears, and then I heard it again. It was louder. Closer. I tensed, not out of fear, but out of readiness to fight. Something was going on; I could sense it. The close proximity wasn't a coincidence, and neither was the fact that it happened twice. Something had exceeded the speed of sound, slowed down, and then done it again. It had to have been deliberate.

My adrenaline was pumping. Was it one of Eggman's robots? Had he finally created something that could move as fast as I could? Or… was it something else?

The third time it happened, I knew whatever had caused it was less than half a mile away. There was no doubt at all now – it was looking for me.

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Thanks for reading! I hope you're enjoying it so far; tell me what you think in a review! Remember to go to my profile if you want the link to the Youtube video based on this. Also, for those of you who wanted to read my adaptation of Sonic and the Black Knight's ending, it's up! It's called Hold On Tight, so take a look if you feel like it. Okay, enough self-advertising. Ahem. Peace out, all! I appreciate your support! ;)

~DC