The painfulness of solitude can drive anyone towards the need for acknowledgment, even in the eyes of evil. No matter how much hatred and sadness they buried it under, Sonic and Shadow's friendship remained. Sequel to In the End.
Previously in In The End
Three years ago, Mephiles appeared to Shadow revealing to him a cryptic truth of what really happened on ARK fifty years before. According to Mephiles, he still had not uncovered all of his memories, and that G.U.N. was not responsible for the murders of Maria and the professor. The phantom restored Shadow's memories, revealing that it was actually his brother Eclipse, an earlier prototype of the ultimate lifeform who had done the deed.
Shadow was consumed with revenge on his brother and began alienating himself from Sonic and the others. They were sent to Painite Desert to investigate mysterious disappearances and confronted a sand-wielding hedgehog named Algos who suffered from mental disorders from what seemed to be intense trauma. After the defeat of Algos, Shadow ended up very badly wounded only to be abducted by Mephiles soon after.
Sonic and the others followed Mephiles, but were too late to stop him from implanting a mysterious "Dark Emerald" within Shadow's chest, promising him that it was the key to enhanced powers which would allow him to exact his revenge upon his brother.
The heroes were given no time for reprieve as Dr. Eggman used this opportunity with Sonic and the others being distracted to launch an attack on Station Square with his reconstructed Egg Fleet. They made their way to the Egg Fleet to stop Eggman, with Shadow's powers and ferocity augmented by the Dark Emerald. In a confrontation with the doctor, Shadow tapped deeper into the powers of the Dark Emerald and accessed a frighteningly powerful Dark Super Form which caused him to become consumed by rage and kill both the doctor and Metal Sonic. The others were barely able to calm him out of this enraged state before he attacked Sonic as well - losing control of the ability to distinguish between friend and foe.
After the battle with Dr. Eggman, the others were confronted on Angel Island by a pair of robed figures who came to take the Master Emerald. After fighting them, it is revealed that one of the two is Shadow's brother, Eclipse. Seizing the chance to exact revenge upon his brother, Shadow once again tapped into the dangerous and unpredictable Dark Super Form to augment his powers, but even in this powered state, Eclipse is able to easily defeat him. Infuriated at his inability to defeat his brother and remembering that Mephiles had previously offered to teach him how to harness the powers of the Dark Emerald, Shadow leaves his friends to seek the dark phantom's training.
Sonic goes after him to prevent him from giving himself over to darkness, but Shadow refuses to listen, and Sonic attempts to stop him by force. Being equally matched, the two combatants crank it up a notch further as Shadow accesses even more of the power of the Dark Emerald to unleash an even more powerful form, the Chaos Form. Similarly, Sonic managed to ascend to the Hyper Form without the help of the Chaos Emeralds.
Their fight ended in a cataclysmic draw, with both combatants knocked out after a massive explosion of energy. Mephiles appeared on the battlefield and collected Shadow's unconscious body.
Sonic awoke to find himself tended to by Tikal and Chaos, who had returned from within the Master Emerald. Tikal explained that there were much greater forces at work than simply Mephiles and that an event of apocalyptic proportions was fast approaching. It would be critical to have Shadow on their side for this, and so she instructed the heroes to all begin training in order to improve their powers and strength. According to Tikal, seven of them have received the blessing of legendary mythological beasts which each represent a specific element, and serve to protect the world from the coming apocalypse.
Among the gods, the one who represented the forces of evil, Havoc, had spawned three horrific monstrosities known as the Titan Beasts. As had occurred for aeons since the dawn of time, the Titan Beasts would reappear every ten thousand years to attempt to destroy the universe, and the seven beasts from the Earth would return in the form of Incarnations - mortals who could access their power in order to stop the Titan Beasts.
It was up to them to master the powers of the Incarnations in order to avert the coming apocalypse.
Sonic, tortured by his inability to protect Shadow from Mephiles, leaves the group to train alone in the desert.
Two years go by. The group reunites on Angel Island with greatly augmented powers and prepare to search for Shadow. But things would not be so easy, as there was a shadowy organization, the same one that Eclipse and his companion were part of, who were bent upon the release of the Titan Beasts. Eclipse and his original companion Kakos returned to Angel Island with their commander, Sarx.
They had come for a set of sacred artifacts known as The Goblets which had been crafted by the gods. These relics were the key to unleashing the Titan Beasts using a strand of hair or other genetic material from each of the Incarnations and a demonic ritual in which the goblets are tainted with "the blood of evil."
After a long battle in which Sarx used his power to resurrect the dead to bring Devil Doom back to fight on their side, the mysterious evil-doers managed to escape with the Goblets, retreating to their base in a massive tower on the edge of the Painite Desert. The heroes follow them to their tower, battling through armies of resurrected Black Arms and various agents of the shadowy organization. The heroes were then joined by Algos, who although not entirely sane, possessed one of the beasts, hoping to help. On the second to the last floor, they confronted Eclipse. They fought him briefly, but it wasn't long before Shadow arrived. Knowing that he would not accept help fighting Eclipse, they continued climbing the tower to confront Sarx.
Shadow and Eclipse have a cataclysmic battle in which Eclipse explains he was an incomplete prototype who didn't have immortality. He planned to kill Shadow and extract Professor Gerald's miracle enzyme "Eve" from his body in order to become an eternal being. Fighting for his life, Shadow taps into the power of both the Cerberus and Dark Emerald in order to defeat Eclipse, falling unconscious in the process.
Sonic and the others go to confront Sarx before he can unleash Nova, the first of the Titan Beasts, but it was his plan to lure them to him all along to collect the DNA of the Incarnations for the Goblets. They fought him but were outmatched by his incredible power until Sarx dealt a seemingly fatal blow to Amy, causing Sonic to lose it, accessing the Dark Super Form to defeat Sarx. Somehow with his last breaths, Sarx managed to release the Titan Beast.
In order to save the world from destruction, Shadow agreed to momentarily cooperate with his former allies to bring down the monstrous dragon. The seven Incarnations battle the legendary demon in the skies above Central City before a final suicidal attack from Shadow left the beast utterly destroyed. In the ashes created in that final explosion, the heroes saw no trace of their friend.
In the aftermath of the battle, the heroes prepare for their next challenge, knowing that the mysterious organization would return to unleash the next Titan Beast.
Chapter 1- In the Beginning
Within the military truck, the soldiers sat straight and nervous, tiny beads of sweat glimmering on their foreheads like diamonds on a sandy beach. It moved painfully slowly, the engine of the vehicle growled and popped with a low, relentless power. Under the treads of the tires gravel crunched noisily, but other than this, there was no noise louder than their own breathing.
In fact, an oppressive silence had settled over the men, and with each sharp turn or slight bump the truck went over, they would sit straighter and stiffer, until finally, they looked like perspiring steel rods with dead, emotionless faces plastered on the front.
One of the men wasn't like the others though. He was burly like them, and his hair was closely shaved, like theirs. His bare arms were covered in faded tattoos of scantily clad women and things like tanks and skulls like them, but looks aside, he was completely different.
He was only two ranks higher, not a veteran or a high ranking commander by any means. But something in the way he sat slouched and bored in his chair, lazily inhaling smoke from a cigarette held loosely within his fingers spoke volumes about how he was different.
They'd all been through boot camp together, he'd just managed to claw his way up faster than the rest of them. Not because he followed orders to the letter, but because he thought independently, he solved problems for himself, and nobody on the face of the world, not his seniors, not the government, not God would tell him otherwise.
He seemed to notice how uneasy the rest of them were, and hefted his feet up on the steel box that contained the 'precious cargo' they were assigned to protect like it was a cheap, worthless footrest. He looked at the men through one squinted eye, as the pitter patter of raindrops filled the suffocating void their silence had given the air.
Running his hands though his fiery red hair, he proceeded to reach into one of his pockets, retrieving another cigarette, which he offered to his neighbor. "From the looks of you guys, you'd think we were going to our own funerals."
Accepting the token soberly, the other soldier said nothing, as if his voice box refused to obey him, or had broken, or he'd forgotten how to use it. The others were the same. In answer to their gloomy silence, distant thunder rolled, awakening one of them from his trance. He yelped, and stared shakily at the confident soldier, almost like he thought the redhead's cocky willpower could affect the weather itself.
"M-m-marcus, what's going on out there?" he stammered, his eyes jerking about so violently Marcus half expected they'd come loose and go rolling across the floor like a couple of ping pong balls.
In reply he scratched his forehead, cracked one of his knuckles, and looked at his fearful companion. "Hell, ain't you ever been through here before?"
"I-I'm afraid I don't know w-w-what you mean," was his stammered reply.
Marcus snorted, and took another pull on his cigarette, then breathed the smoke out through his nose, as mellow as if he were taking a nap in a recliner. "The weather here's like nothing else on this whole damn Earth."
The others were staring at him now, hoping for his reassurance, and put to ease by the sound of a strong, brassy voice bellowing fearlessly in jealous contest of the thunder's volume. "If there ain't lightning and thunder, or hail the size o' golf balls, you can bet there'll be a tornado, and then holy fire will rain from the sky."
Strangely, this didn't seem to be what they wanted to hear. Not noticing, or not seeming to care that he'd made matters worse, he continued on like he was telling a ghost story, and getting to the scary part, his eye brows knit together and his voice grim and solemn.
"But that's not what eating you guys... sure, Jimmy never seen a thunderstorm, but I been through here with at least three of you sorry bastards," he said slowly, sounding simultaneously annoyed and sympathetic. He used the voice that grown men use when they want to console each other, but don't want to come off as weak.
"It's nothing..." one of them muttered, coughing into his fist and gripping the handle of his rifle with knuckles that were as white as death.
Marcus stared at him, his shaggy brows knit into a frown, despite that his lips were a perfectly straight line. "I'll believe that when Larson shaves his legs and struts up the street dressed as a hooker."
Amazingly, in his disorientation and fear, the one he'd spoken of didn't seem offended by such a mention of his name. "Now, are you ready to tell me what's got you all so flustered?"
One of them pointed a shaky finger at the steel lock-box Marcus had rested his feet on, and he stared at the finger in disbelief, as if thinking it would move any minute to point to something else.
"Jesus Christ, you're scared of my footrest?"
The one who stuttered, Jim, shook his head. "W-what's in i-i-i-it."
Marcus took a deep breath, and blew the smoke in Jim's face. The younger soldier coughed and tears came to his eyes, earning a nervous chuckle from the rest of the men. "I seen things in my time. Including somebody snatching them shiny thingies."
He stomped his boot to indicate the steel box, to demonstrate his point. "But HQ chose this route cause its out a the way... remote."
"I'll not have any of your buts private, or that's exactly where you'll find my boot next."
"Y-yessir." Jim stared down at the floor of the truck in defeat, as thunder rolled once more.
"I can personally insure that nobody this side of Old Man Mississippi is gonna come after this here emerald."
In the city the truck had come from, another engine roared to life. Almost like it was trying to compete with the thunder overhead, the belly of the motorcycle growled as it sped off. Atop it was a billowing black presence, cloth as dark as the night flapping in the wind and rain, beneath which sat a being that seemed surrounded by an aura that froze the very air.
Silently the figure gripped the handlebars with a death grip, his dead set amidst the beating downpour. Vehicles that it passed sometimes released an angry honk, or a surprised yell, as the the motorcycle was going well over the speed limit, paying no heed to any of them.
The rapidly moving vehicle was obsidian black like its phantom rider, and slipped through the shadows and darkness as easily as if it were a part of them, its motion fluid and sharp all at once. Several sirens sounded in the distance, blaring loudly out in the night, adding to the confusion and noise made by the rain, the thunder, and the roaring of traffic.
It was moving so quickly, even the police were quickly lost in the maze of darkened streets, hastily turned corners and abruptly turning street lights, soon causing them to lose the trail. The motorcycle left the city, rumbling away from the tall buildings and making its way onto an old logging road that cut through the forest.
Screeching tires threw gravel about in showers, as the driver wrestled with the handlebars to make each turn without reducing his speed. The headlight was not even on, and it was nearly pitch black except when the sky was momentarily illuminated by a flash of lightning.
Roadside trees and signs whipped by and yet despite the darkness, the rider never came close to a collision, keeping perfectly in the middle of the road even though he was going at least a hundred miles per hour. Its motor howling in unison with the storm overhead, the motorcycle began to close in on the armored truck.
His smirk hidden by the deep cowl of his cloak, the figure decreased his speed gradually, finally matching the rate the truck was moving as he came alongside the driver's door. The soldier inside looked out his window, hearing the low roaring of an engine other than his own.
Outside, he could see something moving beside him, matching his speed exactly, but it was indistinguishable within the shroud of darkness. It was keeping pace with him perfectly, so he realized suddenly that it had to be following him, causing a cold sweat to break out on his forehead.
The driver unconsciously sped up, and the undulating shadow did the same, following his every move with an eerie precision. Lightning flashed at that moment, illuminating the world for a split second.
What the man saw drove such fear into him he wanted to scream like a little girl, wanted to curl up into a ball and die right then. There, beside him was a cloaked figure, ivory flame markings clawing up his sleeves. He sat upon a motorcycle as dark as sorrow, staring relentlessly at the driver, a shimmering sword held aloft to mark the prelude to his doom.
A hiss of pressurized gas escaping from his front tire rang through the air as the image retreated into the obscurity from which it had been illuminated, and the truck slowly ground to a halt, the motorcycle decelerating in perfect unison.
When they were both perfectly immobile, the strangely ethereal being stepped off his vehicle, slowly pacing towards the driver as if he had all the time in the world, his sword tip pointed towards him, with little scraps of ruptured plastic hanging from its blade.
A gulp rang through the driver's throat as the mysterious stranger approached.
He was dead before he could even scream, his blood splattered onto the windshield with a single precise slice, crimson running down his neck as the silvery katana finished its swipe.
When the truck stopped moving, the men became even more afraid than before. They were certain that some terrorists had made the driver stop, or that there was something blocking the road that all powers in heaven, and Earth and hell below could not move.
"Will ya shut up? Probably some stupid kid whose ball rolled onto the path!" Marcus sneered, taking another drag off his cigarette.
Larson looked at him, blue eyes shining brightly despite the dim interior of the truck. "We'd all feel a lot better if you'd go and check it out Mark."
Marcus peered at him with a look of annoyance clear on his face. He knew that if he stepped outside, the rain would douse his cigarette, and he'd have to light a new one. He knew that all he'd have to do is go out, and ask the driver what the hold up was.
He'd say 'I thought I saw something,' and Marcus would tell him it was a cow, to shut up and drive, and that he needed to stop thinking so much. He sighed, screwed his camouflaged cover on backwards, nodded, and picked up his M-16.
"Fifteen bucks says it's nothing. I come back and you maggots owe me," he snorted as he kicked the back door open. Stepping out into the cold night, he closed the metallic hatch behind him. As he suspected, the instant he came out into the rain, his cigarette was doused by the downpour, and he threw the stub away with a grimace of dissatisfaction.
Trudging along and muttering to himself, he got out his flashlight and pointed it around a bit, checking to see if anybody was there. He came up to the driver's door, and pointed the beam of light into the cab.
To Marcus' shock and dismay, the seat where the driver was supposed to sit was empty... and yet no-one was around. The driver wasn't up looking at the engine, he wasn't in the road ahead, he had just disappeared.
Looking in more carefully, he noticed that there appeared to be some sort of liquid covering the leather lining of the cab, like the driver had spilled a cup of water on the seat. Marcus reached through the open window, bringing his finger down into a shallow puddle of this liquid that covered most of the interior.
When he drew it back and placed it under the light, he gasped in a combination of fear and disgust. A thick crimson liquid that could only have been blood dripped from his fingertip. It was barely even warm.
A noise echoed through the darkness behind him, and Marcus turned around as lightning flashed in the distance. Standing upon a hill and surrounded by a billowing black cloak was a faceless figure, a long sword held in his right hand.
The tip and blade of this weapon was covered in the same ruby stain that had gathered on the driver's seat... and sitting in front of the figure was the decapitated body of the driver, his head placed in front of him, a final scream of terror forever frozen in his dead eyes.
Marcus thought his blood had turned cold. The robed murderer stalked towards him as the darkness returned, and he pointed his flashlight at the dark presence. He saw steel flash, and the blade of the katana came to rest upon the tender flesh of his neck.
Writhing obsidian blackness approached him, a presence like darkness embodied within a soulless silhouette that had a voice that rang like death. "Open the door."
It took Marcus a moment to process the command, it was so simple, and contained no threats or violence. It was almost polite, almost as if the figure were saying 'get out of my way and there won't be any more bloodshed.'
Marcus gulped and nodded, dropping his rifle to the ground. He led the mysterious being to the back of the truck, slowly opening the impenetrable gateway. The men inside gasped when they saw an ominous figure standing behind Marcus, and the tough, burly soldier quaking with fear.
The door had only been open for a second when the cloaked entity sliced Marcus' head off with one clean motion, causing it to roll across the floor of the truck, and stare up at the other men with wide eyes of shock and sorrow.
More crimson droplets fell from the blade of white steel. The figure stepped into the truck, slowly coming towards them, its blade raised. The soldiers realized at this point that they had to fight or they would all die, and overcame their fear enough to grab hold of their rifles and point them at the figure.
He stopped abruptly, as if offended that they would point a gun at him, or perhaps that they would think such a simple weapon could stop him. He nodded, and was joined by a second figure in identical robes, who suddenly materialized in a cloud of dark mist.
The second figure drew his sword as well, as everyone within the truck remained perfectly still.
The flash of steel, the spurt of blood, the echoing sound of bullets, a few flashes of light, and every G.U.N. soldier in the truck lay dead, his body slumped over to the blood soaked ground.
A pair of gloved hands grasped the handles on the side of Marcus' footrest, as the first figure picked it up and hefted it on his shoulder. On the way out, he kicked the red head's decapitated skull like a soccer ball, sending it flying into the night, a stream of scarlet wetness trailing behind it.
A door leading into the chamber hissed open, causing all heads to turn and look at the disturbance. The room's walls were bare except for a few light fixtures and the huge round table the room's occupants sat at was almost completely bare as well.
Eleven of them sat there, pulling their cloaks around their bodies and laying their hands upon the handles of their swords to prepare for whatever was coming through the door, whether it be friend or foe.
Two identically clothed figures entered, the first one carrying the steel lock-box they had stolen from the armored truck. Drops of water trickled off their hoods and the box, but nobody seemed to notice this, or move to clean up the potentially dangerous trail of water being left. They were fixated on the late Marcus' footrest.
The shadowy phantom dropped the box roughly onto the table, as he and his partner sat down in the two remaining empty seats. Nobody moved for a second, entranced by the steel container. Finally, one of the robed figures rose from his seat, his right arm outstretched, and lazily pointing at the metallic object.
As if by magic, the box rose into the air, responding to his silent commands obediently. It gently levitated, droplets of rain water tricking onto the table below in a disorganized rhythm. His fingers clenched shut and an expectant pause hung over the room.
Then, a change came over the floating lock-box.
Screws turned and rotated on their own, loosening at his command. Steel plates flexed and warped, grinding against each other and making a high pitched squealing sound. Yet the billowing presence never shifted or spoke, merely held out his hand as the nearly impenetrable box disassembled itself.
Soon, most of it had crumbled away to fall in pathetic disarray on the table below. When a reasonable size hole had appeared in the container, a glimmering tendril of light shone through, and everything - even the box's destruction - paused.
Ivory flames fluttered as the lone, standing figure raised his arm, his movements followed by twelve individual's gazes, which were all in one way or another, held in awe. The shimmering light slowly rose out of the remnants of the box, casting its eerie glow across the room, and illuminating everything.
The pure white light of the clear Chaos Emerald sparkled temptingly, and floated through the air as if pulled by an invisible string, into the open hand of the standing figure. His fingers curled around it, digging into the emerald with an almost lustful satisfaction.
"One down... six to go."
Some of the others nodded at this remark, and one stood up, pointed his index finger at the soaked one who had brought the emerald in, drops falling from the brim of his cowl. "You've clearly demonstrated your loyalty, but I'm still worried."
His voice was dark and ominous, almost as if a thread lay veiling within each word. "I cannot help but wonder if you might be affected by your former connections."
All heads turned towards the accused, who was merely staring back, unaffected. He had been toying with a piece of the shattered steel container, rolling it aimlessly within his palm. Abruptly stopping at this remark, he clenched his fist, crushing his box handle, and cracking the metal into a tightly compacted ball.
"Of course not."
This vague and simple reply that seemed to distinctly contradict his violent abuse of his metal plaything appeared satisfactory, and the group began to disperse, getting up from the round table and scuttling off as if nothing had happened.
One of them cleaned the remnants of the box off the table, and the newcomer and his partner with a voice like death were some of the last to get up from the table. The leader, still grasping the emerald, stood up as well, and approached the soaking figures.
Both of them rendered a short bow. The leader turned to the second figure, his arms crossed. "Leave us. There is something we must discuss in private."
A quick nod in response, and the two were completely alone. The leader's robes were more intricate and ornate than the other twelves,' with richly decorated golden hems at the sleeves and the hood. Shining from within the deep cowl were brilliant jade eyes that stared intently at the newest member of the organization, gazing into his soul.
"I'm aware that there's been some concern as to the worsening of your condition," the leader drawled impassively, while rolling the Chaos Emerald around in his palm.
"As long as I'm careful, I have nothing to worry about."
The leader placed a hand on his shoulder, almost like a scolding father. "I seem to remember Sarx saying something along those lines."
His newest disciple folded his sleeves together so that they met, but said nothing in response to this remark. "We can't afford additional liabilities. There's too much at stake here."
"Then what should I do?" the lesser cloaked figure asked, his voice dead and devoid of emotion.
The leader held out his hand, the shining gem held within his palm. A crimson light gathered surrounding the emerald, as his flame decorated cuff fluttered wildly.
"With each emerald we gather, I can lessen the extent of your affliction. Once we have all seven, it should be eliminated entirely."
The scarlet luminosity coursed from the leader's hand and to the figure across from him, enveloping him and wrapping around him like a blanket of blood.
"This does not give you a free ride to do whatever you want," the tall figure reminded him, a hint of ice in his voice, as the claret light faded.
They stood there a moment, staring at each other, as the hand containing the Chaos Emerald retreated back into his golden hemmed sleeve.
"Good. Return to your partner. We have work to do."
Authors Note - In the End was undoubtedly a master work, but as you all know, it created a good number of mysteries. (Thus the pen-name.) The ending was rather ambiguous, and anyone could tell you the conflict wasn't nearly resolved.
With the appearance of more of Sarx's organization to contend with, the theft of the goblets used to unleash the Titan Beasts, the strange disappearance of Eclipse's corpse, and the unknown fate of the ultimate lifeform at the climax of the battle with Nova, there is still much to be uncovered.
I mean to bring it all full circle. If it turns out as I intend, this story should be a constant ride on the revelation train. It will be longer than the first at well over a hundred chapters, and hopefully better, although I'll leave you all to be the judges of that.
Which brings me to my goal. So I can get it out of the way early: I intend to write this story in order to complete and surpass In the End in every way.
All will be told. Just as with the last book, the backstory of the series will be screwed with, although everything should be adequately explained by the end of the book. The story takes place several months after the end of the first book, as the heroes have returned from the bitter sweet victory over the dragon of thunder to continue their training on Angel Island.
The first chapter isn't very "Sonic-y" it serves to introduce the conflict, so don't bail out on me here, just wait until the story progresses a bit further.
All original characters, plot elements, etc, are the property of Mystery002, and not to be used without my explicit permission.
Sonic and the other Sonic characters and series elements are property of Sega.