Right Back Where We Came
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! I absolutely love season 3 (so much character development!), but it left a lot of loose ends. This is my attempt to tie up a couple, as well as to explore some of my ideas for an unofficial season 4. It seems to be ambiguous on how much Shadow remembers by the end of season 3, so I've taken some liberties. Any time you see asterisks, I'm switching between the characters' points of view. And I am one of the few who doesn't hate Chris Thorndyke, so if a pro-Chris story is going to bother you, it's probably better that you don't read this.
I wonder if everyone will hate me for leaving without saying goodbye.
Maybe I shouldn't have trusted Eggman. He helped us about the Metarex, but he came right out and said that he wanted to get me back to my world so I couldn't mess up his plans for the Eggman Empire. He also said he wanted me for a guinea pig to test out this ship of his. What if it doesn't even work?
What if I end up going back and I'm the wrong age? I could stay looking like I'm twelve. Or it could get worse, like Decoe and Bocoe were telling me. And would my mind stay the mind of an eighteen-year-old? What if I go back to being around six or something and my mind goes too? I don't want to repeat my childhood!
Maybe I should've just stayed in Sonic's world. Maybe Eggman was even lying about things only opening up every now and then. If I'd looked around and researched their world, maybe I could've found a different way to go back . . . a way that didn't mean I'd have to run off without telling anyone. I never wanted to do that.
Shadow always leaves without saying goodbye, too. . . .
He used Chaos Control to stop the planet eggs' power from exploding and killing all of us . . . but what happened to him then? He survived the fall from Space Colony ARK. Could he be that lucky a second time? Eggman saved his life back then. But there wasn't anyone around to help him this time.
Does Shadow even know we care about him and that we're worried about him? I feel so guilty for running off like I have. If Shadow's okay, he probably didn't have any regrets about not telling us. I know he cares about us, since he's always helping us out, but maybe he doesn't realize he's cared about too.
I hope I can find a way to go back someday. . . .
The ship's coming out of warp drive now. . . . Am I back on my planet? . . . Yeah, I must be! I think I can see my house over there! I can't wait to see everyone here again . . . Mom and Dad, Grandpa, Ella and Mr. Tanaka. . . . And my Earth friends too---Helen and Danny and Frances. . . . They'll all be wondering where I was and what happened.
Some of it I'm not sure I'm ready to tell.
But . . . why is the ship coming down so fast?
Oh no. . . . It's gaining momentum and there's nothing I can do to stop it!
I'm going to crash. . . .
Her grave is undisturbed after all this time.
The spot where I placed her memorial is still barren. Upon my arrival, I picked a nearby rose and laid it by the marker. She would like that---the fact that flowers are growing again.
She isn't even here to see her dream fulfilled.
She reminded me of Maria.
My memories are still only fleeting at best. I do not remember exactly who Maria is or how I knew her, only that she was someone important to me. I remember standing on what appeared to be a space station, looking out a window at the Earth below us while she stood at my side. I remember that she and I were each other's only friends---and that she was taken from me during a raid on the space station.
I remember bits and pieces of her personality---her compassionate smile, at times tinged with amusement or mischief. . . . Her gentle laugh. . . . Her blue eyes, filled with innocence and courage, also bore sorrow. I saw all of this reflected in Molly. They were both determined and courageous beyond their years.
And accepting of me. . . .
The boy was, too.
Why? Especially when it seems that all I have ever done is hurt him?
I feel that we share some sort of connection. He has been in several of the memories I've regained, pleading for me to stop a destructive plan. . . . Instead I attacked him, blasting him with Chaos energy. But he claimed I did stop the destruction, saving everyone both on the space station and on his planet. And he cared and remembered me throughout the ensuing months, even crafting a second inhibitor ring to match the one he had kept since our past meeting. The rings are what keep me from losing power after a taxing battle, but how would he, a mere boy, know that?
He told me things about my past, things that Doctor Eggman never told despite his promises. Was the boy right and Eggman was using me all that time? There was no lie in the boy's desperate, saddened eyes. The events he spoke of were the truth. By contrast, Eggman always had a smirk on his face. He spoke in such a smooth tone, assuring me that he would tell me of my past if I helped him get the Chaos Emeralds.
Now the galaxy has been purged of the Metarex. The planet eggs have been restored to their separate worlds. The survivors have returned to their world, and I imagine that they are going back to their normal lives.
But as for me . . . where is my world? What is my "normal life"? Or do I not have either?
I do not belong to Sonic's world. I don't know how I know this, but something tells me that I was never aware of his planet before I awakened on Eggman's ship. None of the other worlds I've seen over the past months have felt familiar, either. Perhaps I do not even have a world to call home.
And as for my life . . . perhaps it only consists of destruction. My powers are fatally dangerous if misused. Why would I have been given such lethal abilities? Maybe I exist solely to be a weapon. That boy would tell me otherwise, but he would not likely comprehend such grim possibilities.
The boy. . . .
What is this sudden feeling of urgency? Why do I have this need to find him again? He is nothing to me!
Nevertheless, the feeling is too strong to be ignored. Something is wrong.
I will use Chaos Control to go where he is.
The side of my head hurts. It feels like something warm and sticky is running from it into my left eye. I'm slumped back, still strapped into the seat. And everything's so hot. . . .
Did the ship really crash? I don't remember landing, so I guess I must have blacked out. And since it's so hot and hard to breathe . . . the ship must be on fire!
All I can see through the window now is thick black smoke. It's coming in here, too; I'm coughing and my eyes are watering. I try to wipe the blood away from my left eye before covering my nose and mouth.
I have to get out of here! I'll suffocate or burn to death if I stay. I didn't leave Sonic's world just to get killed trying to come home!
But there's nothing I can use to shatter the window. The glass is too thick for me to break myself. And the door's going to be really hot to touch. I pull my hands into my sleeves as I stumble over to the door and try to get out. The latch isn't turning. The door's stuck!
I throw all my weight against it, even as the heat starts to burn through my clothes. But it's no use! I can't get the door open and the smoke's getting stronger.
"Help!" I try to call over the sound of the fire. "Can anyone hear me?! I'm stuck in here!"
Somebody must have seen the ship crash, or at least, they must see the flames now. But maybe they won't get here in time. Or maybe there's nothing that can even be done. I can't tell how bad it looks from outside. And it's so dark in here! I can't see the fire at all, just this thick smoke.
Did Eggman plan this all along? Or did even he not know what would happen when the ship entered Earth's atmosphere?
"Sonic . . ." My eyes are watering again. "I'm sorry. . . . I shouldn't have left. . . ."
My body lurches as I try ramming the door another time. Something's ripping. . . . My sleeve tears and tightens around my arm before breaking. And I'm getting taller. . . .
I'm going back to the physical age I'm supposed to be. And what a time for it! If I can't get out, they're going to find me laying in here with clothes and shoes that are several sizes too small. Unless everything burns away. . . .
I hit the door again. "Help!" I scream. "Let me out of here!"
I can't hear anything outside. Maybe someone's out there, trying to get in, but maybe no one knows I'm here at all.
Maybe this really is the end. . . .
There is smoke in every direction as the light from Chaos Control fades. Something is burning, setting the grass of this field aflame. I run forward, staring into the heavy black clouds. What's going on? Is the boy here, somewhere in this fire? He must be; I used Chaos Control to seek his location.
"Help! Let me out of here!"
His voice is muffled, and . . . different somehow, but I recognize him. He's trapped, banging on something to be let free.
I remember pounding on the escape pod when Maria was being killed in front of my eyes. . . .
And Molly . . . Molly was killed in an explosion. . . .
Could the device the boy is in explode?
No! I have to find him!
"Can anyone hear me?! Is anyone out there?!"
I have to focus on his voice. Fire can play tricks, making it seem that someone is where he is not. And the frantic banging is growing louder. I shield myself from the flames as best as I can as I follow the sound's direction.
The object is here. I can feel the door when I reach into the darkness. Whatever it leads to, it's made of metal---and the fire's heat has enveloped it. If it's penetrated to the other side, the boy must be getting burned trying to get out.
"Stay back!" I call. "I'm going to open the door."
I don't even know if he hears me. But I can't waste time finding out.
I also can't risk crushing him by cutting the door or punching it inward. I'm going to have to pull it off its hinges, no matter the possible damage it may do to me. I can feel the heated metal burning through my gloves as I pry it from the opening and throw it aside. Flames rush at me from the side, burning my arms in spite of my attempts to shield myself.
There's only a small space beyond the door, barely room enough for one person. It seems to be some kind of ship . . . an egg-shaped ship. . . .
What has Eggman done now?!
The boy is stumbling out, coughing from the smoke and the lack of air---but he's changed. His clothes are in shreds, hanging from a body several years older than when I saw him last. He stares at me as he loses his balance, falling forward into my arms.
"Shadow . . . ?" he whispers in disbelief. "You're alive. . . ."
I catch him, my expression not changing. ". . . You've grown," is all I comment.
He gives a weak, awkward laugh. "Y-yeah. . . ."
I keep hold of him with one arm as I take out the Chaos Emerald I currently possess. It stings my damaged hand as it begins to glow. To our side, the ship vibrates in an unsettling way.
"It's going to blow!" the boy exclaims.
And I can feel the fire on my back even as I summon Chaos Control and we warp away.
I can hardly believe this is happening.
I was hoping . . . praying, even . . . that I'd be rescued. But I never thought the one who'd come would be a friend I thought I'd left behind on Sonic's world. . . . Someone I've been afraid was dead.
And he's hurt! I saw the burns on his arms and hands when he reached for me. He's just trying to ignore it now, but it's obvious he's in pain. He went through this to save me!
I crash to my knees as the last effects of the Chaos Control warp wear off. I'm coughing, trying to get the rest of the smoke out of my lungs. Shadow just watches me, not looking affected. Then he turns, like he's studying the area where we wound up. Or maybe he's uncomfortable.
He cringes, stiffening as he starts to double over.
My own pain is forgotten. "Shadow!" I cry, reaching for him.
"Don't touch me," he growls, flinching as he tries to move away.
I fall back. Why does he act like this? It's like he hates me even though he helps me. It's almost always been like this, too. He was so insistent that he wouldn't work as part of our team to stop the Metarex . . . even though he finally did in the end. Is it because he still doesn't remember things too well?
"Shadow, you're hurt," I try again. "You got burned . . . for me. Please let me help you. . . ."
"You're hurt yourself," he retorts, still not looking at me. "I'll be fine. We're in front of a house. You should go inside and see if they'll help you."
"A house . . . ?" I turn to look and my mouth drops open. We're not in front of just any house; we're in front of my house! There's the fountain, the stairs, the lab. . . .
"Shadow, this is my house!" I tell him. "Please come in with me. You need help too, even if you think you don't." My voice lowers. "Why are you so against staying?"
Now he finally turns, looking at me over his shoulder. He's more surprised than anything else. "Why do you want me to?" he asks.
I look back steadily. "Because you're my friend," I tell him.
He stiffens again. "I'm no one's friend," he says.
This isn't any time to argue about it. He turns away, trying to take a step forward. But his legs are giving out underneath him. He was hurt worse than either of us thought when the ship started to explode.
I try to catch him, even though my own hands are burned and sore. "Please, Shadow," I beg now, shuddering as I try to hold onto him. "Please come. . . ."
And something seems to change. He doesn't relax, but he doesn't push me away, either. And then he finally nods. "Fine," he snaps. "Just for a moment."
Well . . . it's a start.
I don't know why I'm agreeing to go with the boy. I had planned to leave him here, after making sure he would be taken care of. I make it a point to never stay long around him, or Sonic, or any of their friends. I don't belong with them.
But the pain I felt before has been returning. My energy is drained from using Chaos Control twice in the past five minutes. I wasn't fully recovered from stopping time during the battle against the Metarex when I came here. And the fire. . . . It burns worse now than it did a few moments ago.
I was unmoved by the boy's words as he tried to convince me to stay. But his last attempt reached something deep in my very being.
"Please, Shadow. . . ."
At that moment, I froze. Even as he spoke, I could hear the echo of Maria's voice in my mind, with the exact same words. I can still hear her.
"Please, Shadow. . . ."
I looked back to him. He was regarding me with those same, pleading eyes. And he is hurt himself, though he did not and has not seemed to notice. Blood is running from a cut on his left temple, while his hands are burned from struggling to open the door.
That was when I consented.
Now we are walking, or rather, stumbling, closer to the house. Right before we arrive at the stairs, the doors at the top fly open. A tall man is standing there, regarding us in shock.
"Mister Chris!" he gasps, looking from the boy's ragged and torn clothing to my burned body. "My goodness!"
The boy gives him a shaking smile filled with pain. "Hey, Mr. Tanaka," he says. "I'm home. And I'm sure you remember my friend---Shadow the Hedgehog." He is still trying to support me even though he is ready to fall. I'm trying to be strong enough for both of us, but it isn't working. We're a sorry sight, both staggering and at the point of collapse.
Tanaka hastens down the stairs to help us. "O-of course," he says, giving me a strange and clearly puzzled look. "I could never forget Shadow."
Unfortunately, I can't say the same for him. As far as I'm concerned, I've never seen him before in my life.
"I ran into some trouble on the way home," the boy tells him. "Shadow helped me, but now he's hurt! I know it must be a shock to see him alive, but . . ."
"Never mind," Tanaka says as he tries to guide us to the stairs. "Just come inside, both of you."
I still don't want to, but I already said I would. That settles the matter.
The boy tries to give me an encouraging smile.
I don't return it.