Hi everyone! Sorry it took me so long to bring this chapter up…it was a long one, I was busy…You know the routine. At least I managed to get it up…if barely…under a year. I hope this chapter will be exciting, and stay tuned! Please…

Knuckles plucked a strawberry from a nearby brush for extra energy as he sprinted up the hill. Strawberry Hill, to be exact; it used to be one of his favorite places to go on the island as a kid. And as nice as it was to snack, he was here on serious business, and worse, didn't have enough time. He had to see a friend of his.

His home wasn't hard to spot; just a small cottage with only one room. Knocking on the door (probably closer to banging it down due to his impatience), he called "Charmy! Get up!"

As the door opened, a large bee with flight goggles stepped out, rubbing his eyes. "Knux! It's Saturday morning!" he complained. Which was odd, considering he could sleep in if he wanted every day of the week.

"Like you have anything better to do!" Knuckles shot back. "Listen, I need your help. Go find Vector and Mighty. I'll be looking for Espio and Archimedes; we'll get everyone together faster that way!"

Charmy ran inside and put on his shoes…not that he would really need them…and suddenly shrunk to the size of a typical insect, taking flight. "What is it? That Robotnik guy?" Charmy asked, his fatigue having vanished.

"Yeah. Got an early warning from the Princess." Knuckles confirmed. "We'll be better off if we're prepared for him. Now go!"

Charmy zipped due west, searching for two of the "Chaotix" members. "I just hope that's ALL we have to deal with." Knuckles thought as he began to glide in the opposite direction. "Cause if we screw up…we're going to be in such big trouble that I wouldn't be surprised if even Ivo himself regrets what he is about to do!"

"I suggest everyone brace themselves!" Rotor shouted as he and Antoine flew the plane closer to the Flying Battery. "It's about to become a very, very bumpy ride!"

Antoine gulped as he reluctantly steered the wheel to the right. "Do-do-do you not suppose zis iz a good time for zee stealthy approach, no?"

"Antoine, not now!" everyone scolded him. When he tried, Antoine could come through, but more often than not, his cowardice was a hindrance to the group.

"We need to ensure everyone gets on board without his notice." Rotor reminded the real pilot. "We're going to begin the rescue now; the virus should kick in at any minute. Nicole! Run the schematics and mark points for everyone to board!"

"Scanning." Nicole, hooked to the plane's controls, replied. She then displayed a hologram, showing the blueprints of the ship, marking different points of entry for Edward and the Freedom Fighters.

"Okay. Except for Ed, everyone's going to have to go in pairs. Bunnie and St. John, you two are up! We're going to match our speed with the airship!"

The skunk and rabbot got ready as the plane edged towards the lower left. Bunnie and St. John got out of their seats, as Bunnie opened the hatch. "You ready, sugar?" St. John aimed his crossbow with a rocket powered arrow, and fired, taking a zip-line with it. In a split second, Bunnie grabbed St. John and using her robotic arm, took hold of the line. Her rocket powered boots jettisoned them towards the ship. Once they were in, the line was cut, and the plane continued on its way.

"Impressive." Ed noted.

"We've had experience with things like these before." Rotor told him.

Ed then noticed what seemed like large guns and cannons coming out of the ship. "Uh…I know I'm a little bit behind with the tech here…but to me, that looks like real bad news."

"It is." Sonic confirmed. "But we've been through worse in the skies. Don't worry, Ant here's a good pilot, if nothing else."

"Not only that, but I gave Buttnik a few surprises, remember?" Rotor asked, smiling mischievously. "Give it a sonic second; I've a feeling this is going to be good."

The turrets suddenly changed in various directions, and began to fire in the air at random.

"Whoa!" Ed exclaimed in fascination. "What did you do to that thing?"

"Computer virus." Rotor explained. "You know how microorganisms can make your body behave in a pathological manner, right? This affects machines."

"Okay." Ed said, a little bit lost on how that worked. "But I don't think this will help us much once we get on. In fact, I think you only made it worse!" he shouted as he observed the chaos outside.

"In a way." Rotor replied, sheepishly. "We originally did not believe we would actually have to board the ship. But, if nothing else, it should serve as a decent distraction, not to mention if this keeps going on, the ship will eventually lose power. And believe me, that counts for something."

"AAAHHHH!" Envy yelled as a sprinkler from above surprised him with a sudden gust of water. "What the hell is going on here!?"

Robotnik, desperately trying to shield himself from the sudden cascade with his cape, demanded the same thing. "Snively, what in blazes is going on here!?"

"I'm checking, sir!" he responded in a panicking voice. Running a diagnostic on the console, he slammed his hand against it upon receiving the diagnosis. "Blast!"

"Well, Snively?"

"A virus, sir! Those rebels uploaded a virus our system is not prepared for! I can get rid of it, but unfortunately, it's going to take some time!"

Robotnik growled. "They would have needed to have been here first!" Before he could yell another complaint to his lackey, he started thinking before he allowed himself to be consumed by his rage. "They knew. Somehow, they've been finding out all my secrets! But how!?" Realizing it would do him no good at this point, he gave another order. "Begin all anti-viral protocols. Get things under control, and quickly! I assume our basic modes of transportation and manual weapons still work?"

"Affirmative, sir! I'll see to all the other functions right away!" Snively answered as he began to repair what damage he could.

Robotnik exited the command center, the Homunculi trailing behind him and soaking wet. "So, what now?" Lust asked.

"We get ready." Robotnik replied. "I demanded my ore back, and I suspect a certain someone will come here to give it me. I would like to be ready in that event. You three may feel free to place yourself wherever you like; I'll need you to keep everyone else at bay."

"And the Princess?" Lust asked out of curiosity.

The tyrant answered. "Well, if I get what I want, I'll keep my word. I promised to let her out of the incinerator…but I said nothing about harming her in some other way! Like say…dropping her from the sky!" Robotnik gave a quick laugh at the loophole he created for himself.

Lust grinned evilly. "I've a feeling you're going to fit in with our family just fine."

"Why, thank you." Robotnik bowed. "Now be careful; while I doubt anything in here could kill you, it wouldn't do to have the machinery damage you when they could be used against something more…mortal, shall we say."

"Sonic! Tails! You guys are next!" Rotor said. The two freedom fighters unfastened their seatbelts and made their way to the hatch. "By the way, Sonic!" Rotor called as he unhooked Nicole from the console. "I think Sally would like her back!" Tossing Nicole, Sonic caught it with ease and tucked it into his backpack.

"Ready, little buddy?" Sonic asked as he carefully edged towards the outside.

"Always, Sonic!" Tails replied.

"You know the drill!" Suddenly, Sonic dove out of the plane like he was doing nothing more than a high dive. Tails zoomed forward to catch him, and guided Sonic towards the ship. "Careful, buddy! Once we get close, those turrets will go crazy!" the hedgehog warned the fox.

Carefully, Tails avoided any stray fire, and found a part of the ship that was relatively safe. "Landing in 321…!"

Tails let the blue speedster go, who immediately began to rev up despite having no ground to gain traction from. The split second later that he did land, the hedgehog took off like nothing. Dodging the turrets, he gave a quick wave to Tails to let him know everything was alright. "Good luck, Tails! Don't worry about finding me; I'm sure I'll find you in a sonic second when I need to!" Tails waved back, and flew to the ventral aspect of the ship.

Sonic, wasting no time, quickly scanned for an entrance. "Let's see…too narrow…dead end…" Though it was probably only a few seconds, to the blue speedster it felt like an eternity to him before he could locate a suitable entrance. "Ah-hah! Bingo!" Finally, Sonic saw an air vent that looked like a suitable opening. Quickly, he grabbed hold of it, and ran backwards as fast as he could. Despite the power his speed was putting into it, getting it lose was an arduous task. Getting vents and grates out were Bunnie's specialty. Fortunately, within 2 seconds it gave, and Sonic ran inside.

Entering the ventilation system, he sped along, guided only by instinct. "Hang on, Sal! I'm comn'!"

"Okay, Ed! You're up next!" Rotor called.

Ed rushed to the hatch…and stopped dead in his tracks. "Uhm…sorry if this sounds like a stupid question…BUT HOW THE HELL DO I GET DOWN THERE!?"

Rotor nearly smacked himself, as he remembered Ed was not familiar with aircraft. "Sorry! We're used to having people trained for this kind of thing!" Rotor then hit a few buttons on Nicole. "Don't worry though…if there's one thing that we and you have in common, it's the ability to improvise! Right, Dulcy?"

"Roger that!" Dulcy answered into her communicator. Dulcy let herself drop in altitude slightly, to regain some breath. Alphonse had to weigh at least half as much as she did! "I have trouble following air crafts as it is…and you're not helping!" she huffed.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you!" Al replied. "The wind's too strong up here!"

"I said, get ready!" she yelled to save face. "I'm going to get you as close as I can to the craft! Then, you're going to have to jump!"

Alphonse would have looked at her nervously if his helmet would allow it. "Are you crazy!?" he shouted in disbelief.

"You'll just have to manage somehow!" Dulcy replied as she flapped her wings increased in beat. "Because if you don't, that brother of yours is going to have an even harder time getting down!" Al felt the impulse to gulp, forgetting he had no such body tissue to do such a thing. "Hang on! I'm revn' at full throttle!"

Alphonse quickly caught his head before it could fly away. Indeed, they were quickly closing in on the airship; it seemed whatever Rotor had done before slowed it down tremendously. However, all the guns and turrets were firing at random; "catching up" to it may not have been the best idea. "AHHH!" Alphonse screamed as he saw an incoming projectile. Quickly, Dulcy pivoted left and dove forward. Opening her mouth, she then released fire, fire hot enough to melt the metal ship's hull. All turrets caught in her blast were quickly reduced to slag.

"Now's your chance! Jump!" she yelled.

Reluctantly, Al began to lean over Dulcy's side (causing her to turn with him). Finally, Al jumped and let go. He tumbled on the ship and rolled. Just when it seemed he would fall to his death, he grabbed hold of one of the stray railings. Hoisting himself up, he then scanned for the Freedom Fighters' plane. Upon spotting in, Al got to work. Pulling out a piece of chalk, he immediately sketched a quick transmutation circle. Activating it, the metal hull extended from the ship's exterior into a large and long bar.

"That's your cue!" Rotor called to Ed. "We're going to cut the ship off course and meet it at its destination! Good luck, Ed!"

"Oh, when you say it that way, it sounds so simple…" Ed muttered sarcastically. Ed hung on to the hatch as the plane rotated slightly to angle him with the bar. Ed took a deep breath…and a gulp…and propelled himself out of the plane. Instead of a diving leap that Ed typically performed, he flailed his arms like a hawk chick desperately trying to fly. "AHHHHHH!" Ed leapt from great heights before, but not so great he couldn't see the ground beneath him; looking down unnerved him severely. Thankfully, his human instinct to live propelled his arms to grab the bar; the impact of it rattled him, and for a second he thought his shoulders would dislocate.

"Ed!" Al called. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, Al!" Ed grunted. "I'm just glad I didn't wet myself." Ed struggled to lift himself onto the bar. "I'll be fine, Al! Go! You've got your own job to do!" he waved him off. Al nodded, and ran up the ship. "Okay, Ed. The hard part's over with…I hope."

Little did he know, a screw from his automail arm fell into the sea below…

Sonic kicked down a grate, and helped himself into the main corridor of the ship below. "Now it's time to really juice!"

Sonic took off at his usual speed, oblivious to the alarms. "Whoa!" Sonic shouted as he dodged a projectile. A turtle like robot with a canon for a nose stared back at him. "Sorry, chrome-dome, but I've got no time to play!" He went into a sonic spin and tore the poor machine open. His spinning body jumped up and down the floor and ceiling, taking out the Blaster bots along the way. "Sayonara!"

Sonic doubted that was the last of the badniks he would see on board. And normally, he would look forward to trashing all of them. But Sally's well-being always came first. Soon, he approached what seemed to be a skateboard with a propeller. Sonic remembered seeing similar devices in the various factories he and his friends sabotaged. When weight was put on them, they took off, delivering the cargo without haste. Sonic wondered what would happen if he stepped on it. "Only one way to find out!" He stepped on it, and he felt his speed increase by a considerable margin. "Whooo-hooo!" Sonic was sent flying when it came to an abrupt stop, but landed on his feet without pause. He continued running, seeing the sky up ahead. "Maybe I can get a better idea of where to go from there!"

He ran outside…and stared down into the ocean "UH-OH!" Sonic revved up his legs, hoping to slow his fall, but it did little good. He lucked out, though, as he saw a hovering circular platform below. He grabbed hold of it, and finally began to breath again. "Whew! If Buttnik knew these emergency transport things would save my life, I bet he would've never made them!" Quickly, Sonic hurled himself up, and looked for a way across the dock. "Man I sure could use Tails right now!" he hissed as he observed it was a long way across. Then, Sonic noticed some hangars right above them. "Monkey Bars! Haven't done that since I was a little ol' hog!" As the platform neared the roof, Sonic leapt off and grab hold. While he made good time swinging across, the fact that it was taking seconds irritated him. "This is definitely for the birds!"

Sonic finally touched down on the other side. "If there's anything that Buttnik's good at, is figuring out how to make a super-fast hedgehog waste time!" He took off once more, his mind on only one thing. "Hang on Sal…just a bit longer!"

"Okay. I just need to calm down…" Ed was just too unnerved to function at top capacity. Standing on a giant airship, and moving within it, was bad enough. Remembering what was at stake, he forced himself to calm down. He's been through unbelievable situations before; he would just have to treat this as one of those. "No choice." Al already went ahead of him; if he could muster up the courage to get going, so could he! "Here I go!"

Ed ran forward towards the door that seemingly invited him in. Getting there was going to be a challenge, with all of the ship's mechanisms going haywire and firing at random. He stepped in, observing his surroundings. He was beginning to feel like Winry observing machinery, but he didn't have the time to postulate and admire how it all worked. Thankfully, any harmful projectiles he saw seemed to be aimed at each other. Ed sprinted down the hall, the corridor seemingly going on forever. Soon, he reached a dead end. "God damn it." He cursed. Ed looked around, trying to see if there were any alternative routes. It seemed there were several, and who knows where they would all lead. He didn't have time to search through a maze. Judging by the very slight draft of air, it seemed the only way was up.

Ed suddenly face palmed himself. "I can't believe I didn't think of that! This world may be extraordinary…" Clapping his hands, he transmuted the metal floor beneath him, raising him up. "But then again, so am I!" Reaching the floor above, he disembarked.

It looked like it would be clear sailing, but something fast approached him. Ed, initially on the defensive, calmed down upon seeing what approached him. While it was a robot, it was small. Probably no bigger than his foot. It had no distinctive limbs, an ovalish-shaped body, a rodent like tail, and large, bulging eyes. In fact, it seemed kind of…cute. "Hey." Ed said, kneeling to get a better look at it. Pretending to put on a face of adoration, he teased it. "You're a cute one, aren't you? Are you looking for a butt kicking? Yes, you are!"

The robo-mouse's eyes narrowed in irritation. "Come on, I'm going to uppercut you to hurty town…" Ed continued to tease it.

Suddenly, the robot sped forward and swept Ed off his feet, giving him a nice bump on the head upon contact with the metallic floor. "Ow!" Ed yelled, holding his skull. "That's it! I'm going to rip you…" Ed stopped his rant has he heard a whole hoard of chattering noises behind him. Ed froze, and slowly looked behind him. Eyes littered the darkness, and the shadows stepped forward, revealing dozens of the mouse robots. "You've got to be-"

Before he could finish, they rushed at him from all sides, hitting him with enough force to send him airborne every time. "Ow! OW! I don't believe this!" Ed screamed as the metal mice made sure to keep him airborne. Another slider lined up in position to head butt him again, but Ed was ready this time. "WHY DON'T YOU ALL TAKE A PIECE OF CHEESE AND CHOKE ON IT!" Using his alchemy, he transmuted the floor below to make mousetrap-like snares, which clamped down on the robots. Ed took a second to savor ground beneath his feet and catch his breath. It would have been a disturbing scene had they been living things he destroyed.

Catching movement at the corner of his eye, Ed turned to his left. One of the sliders was still alive. But this time, its eyes were wide, and it was trembling with fear. "Boo!" Ed growled, lunging forward. The slider squeaked as it leapt in surprise, and ran the opposite direction. "That's right, you better run!" Ed dusted his coat, and began a jog forward. "I don't have much time! Sally-!" Ed increased his pace, he began to notice a light up ahead. "Maybe it'll be easier for me to find my way from there!"

He stepped outside…and came to a screeching halt. "Whoa!" A propeller was just inches away from slicing a nice gash on his forehead. "I guess slow and steady is the way to go…I'm not much good to anyone dead…" Ed maneuvered his way between the spinning propellers; it wasn't that hard. But suddenly, the ship made a sharp turn, throwing Ed to the floor. It seemed the ship suddenly decided to continue on its planned destination, but in reverse! The g-forces sent Edward sliding towards a propeller. The young alchemist panicked, and clawed at the floor to avoid being skewered. "What the hell is that jerk thinking!?" Ed yelled.

"Oh, I assure you, I had nothing to do with it." Ed looked up to see a hologram of Robotnik, displayed by an orb bot. "Thanks to your new friends, it's taking my ship twice as long to arrive at its destination. But, on the flip side, it's made things more dangerous for you. Except for the princess, foresight is not the Freedom Fighters' strong suit." Robotnik took a moment to chuckle. "Anyway, you have about…25 minutes left." He informed him, looking at his robotic arm, which Ed assumed had some kind of watch. "Look up there." Robotnik said, pointing to a citadel straight ahead to where Ed was heading. "That's where I would like you to relinquish the disorganizero." He informed him. "Be quick; it's going to take you some time to get through all this."

"I know a trap when I see one." Ed growled.

"Oh, I had no intention of deceiving you, Mr. Elric." Robotnik bowed in mock fashion. "But, what choice do you have?" Ed only glared at him. "The clock is ticking, Full Metal." The hologram phased out, and the orb bot retreated to some unknown location on the ship.

Ed gritted his teeth as he looked at the citadel and the propellers in his way. "Damn!" Ed rose, and moved forward, like he always did.

Robotnik switched off the communication, and turned his attention to the other screens, observing his other adversaries currently on board. Bunnie and St. John were making good progress, as was the suit of armor. Tails was probably having the easiest time of all of them getting around on the ship, due to his ability to fly. Sonic…well, needless to say, he would either find him or the princess in mere minutes at the rate he was going.

"We're going to need to hamper their progress somehow." Pressing on his own private communicator, he radioed Snively, who was back at the control room. "Snively! Have you made any progress on removing the virus!?"

"We have managed to isolate it, sir! However, getting rid of it is going to be another problem all together!"

Robotnik growled in dissatisfaction. "Of all the…continue what you are doing, and step it up! I have other matters to attend to!" Robotnik signed off, and contacted Lust by a radio he loaned her. "The hedgehog is coming your way! Stop him! But do not kill him!...I want that pleasure for myself."

"And what about you?" Lust asked over the other end.

Robotnik replied "I intend to wait here for the alchemist. I would like to be here when…or perhaps, if…he hands over what he has taken from me."

"Just make sure you don't kill him…we need him as well…" Lust ordered him.

Robotnik looked at his radio curiously. "They're enemies, and yet they need him and his brother? Well, it's no concern of mine…I suppose it's something else we have in common…" Robotnik replied "Very well. But, I don't suppose I'm not allowed to hurt him?"

"As long as his alchemy is intact, we don't care what happens to him." Lust replied.

Robotnik couldn't help but notice Envy let out a soft, irritated growl. "I'll deal with Elric. And I've a surprise for whoever reaches the princess first. I'll have Crocbot deal with the rest. And, if you would please, stop the hedgehog! Robotnik over and out!"

Ed looked at all the obstacles between him and the citadel. "Great. You know, if you wanted me to come to you so badly, you could have helped me get there." Ed knew it was fruitless, especially when considering the freedom fighters were the cause of all the chaos on board. That didn't matter now, though; somehow, he had to make it across. Sonic, from what he'd been told, faced plenty of situations like these…"If I were as fast and agile as Sonic…what would I do?" He pondered.

Noticing the poles with the propellers spinning, he got an idea. It wasn't a good one, but he didn't have time to waste coming up with anything better. Ed breathed deeply, and rubbed his hands together. "HERE I GO!" Ed sprinted towards a propeller pole close by, and leapt towards it, in between two spinning blades. Grabbing hold of the pole, he began spinning with it, fast enough for him to pull his body towards the outer axis. "AAAGGHHHH! THIS WAS AN EVEN DUMBER IDEA THAN I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE!" Ed, confident he had a good grip on the pole, carefully eyed his rapidly spinning surroundings. When he felt he had a good sense of when and where he was going to be, he let go. For a person with all flesh limbs, the next step probably would've broken his arm. Thankfully, Ed's automail hung on to the proceeding pole and kept its integrity. It didn't mean it didn't hurt like hell though. "Grr!" "I can't believe I have to do more of these…" Ed gritted his teeth and bore the pain. Resisting the G-forces and the constant torque that felt like it was liquefying his insides, he scooted up the pole to where he could almost touch the next propeller. He then repeated the same process, until finally, he made it to the other side, at the base of the citadel.

Edward puffed himself up triumphantly. "Ha! Now, Botnik, it's time to face me, mano a…" He suddenly stopped his speech, as something rose up in his throat. Feeling something was about to give, he kept gulping to keep it down. Realizing that would be impossible, he ran over to an exhaust pipe and emptied his breakfast inside it. "Oh god…next time I pull a stunt like that, I'm taking some good meds with me…" he sickly commented.

Quickly regaining his composure, he made his way to a pair of electronic doors. Once inside, he realized he was inside an elevator, taking him up. "This better work…Al, Sonic…I hope you guys know what you're doing." He thought darkly.

Knuckles enjoyed gliding over Rainbow Valley. The rainforest's bright colors were a wonder to behold, and Knuckles would never get tired of it on a nice day such as today. It was at times like these that he wished he could stay and enjoy the view. But responsibilities came first, and they were coming fast! "Okay, I hope Espio makes this easy for me…"

He touched down in the forest, looking for signs of the chameleons. As the name would suggest, they preferred to stay in hiding, and blend in with their surroundings. Even Espio, after all he and the other Chaotix have been through together, preferred to stay invisible until Knuckles would spot him. Not seeing him anywhere in the immediate forest, he set forth towards Espio's home. Somehow, he always managed to find him, much to the chameleon's irritation. He didn't know how, but he was somehow able to see how the light slightly blended around the chameleon when in stealth mode, and as such able to discern where he was. Knuckles finally came upon what to most would be an ordinary tree. But, Knuckles could see it; the bending of light showing the steps to a ladder, coated with some substance that allowed to blend with the immediate surroundings, just like the residents of the valley. "Guess I'll check to see if he's home."

Knuckles, seemingly climbing air, went up to Espio's tree house. Soon, he was inside a small but cozy cabin up in the tree. "Espio! You home!?"

Knuckles didn't need to shout, as he heard a book shut close to his side. A purple skinned chameleon, with a horn on his rostral area, looked at him. "No need to yell. I'm right here." He sighed. Getting up, he asked "So, how'd you find me this time?"

"Trade secret." Knuckles replied smugly. It was a game of his to keep the chameleon guessing. "Listen, can you meet me and the others at our usual spot in half an hour? Robotnik trouble again."

Espio groaned. "That guy just doesn't quit, does he?"

"Afraid not." Knuckles agreed in disgust. Walking towards the edge of the window, he told the chameleon "I'm going to go look for Archimedes. See you soon."

Almost ready, the guardian made haste as he glided above the canopy in search of his newest, and most mysterious ally.

"Missed me!" Tails shouted as a swatbot fired a laser at him. "Don't worry, though; I'd prefer it if you didn't kiss me!" Tails dodged blasts from more incoming swatbots. Every time he tried to move forward, the robots cut him off. "I better take care of these bots before proceeding any further."

Tails, noticing the ship's fuel lines above, had an idea. "Okay, I'm going to need something sharp…" Hearing something leap from behind, Tails narrowly dodged a modified swatbot with buzz saws for hands. "Whoa! That was too close!" Realizing this new swatbot made it worse with all the normal ones surrounding him, Tails knew his timing for his plan had to be absolutely perfect. "I better put what Sonic taught me to good use…"

Quickly, he ducked under one of the platforms. "Intruder cornered." The head swatbot announced. "Surround and retrieve. Or destroy."

The swatbots positioned themselves at the edges of the platform, their lasers ready to fry anything in sight. The modified saw-swatbot positioned itself in the middle of the line, looking for the fox. Peering down a vent, he saw the young mobian's fur. "Intruder detected. Proceeding with extraction now." Its blades moved as it prepared to go to work.

Tails grunted as he wound his tails tight as he could. "This better work!" He released the muscles in his tails, allowing them to spin at 3 times their normal speed. As a result, the saw-swatbot was flown up to the ceiling, its blades cutting the fuel lines. Before it could fall, Tails burst from the vent, right in the middle of the swatbot platoon. The swatbots reacted, firing their lasers. One of which hit the leaking fuel above.

Quickly, Tails flew away as the robots were engulfed in flames. "On second that, maybe that wasn't such a good idea!" An inferno suddenly trailed behind Tails, the poor fox desperately trying to move faster. "Next time I pull something like this, I'm bringing Sonic along! He could get away from anything!" Tails found a fork in the road, and turned right, against the current of the air. Tucking himself into a corner, he curled up and braced himself for the flames. Thankfully, only a few made it his direction, and were quickly pulled back by the wind.

Sensing he was in the clear, Tails slowly stood. "Whew. That was too close for comfort! I think its best I don't tell Aunt Sally about this…"

Tails got up to fly again, but something large fell in front of him. Tails at first thought it was a stray swatbot, but upon hearing it grunt something with a boyish voice, he realized it was something else! "Al!"

Alphonse turned around to face him. "Tails! I'm glad I found you…though it doesn't help tell me where I am…" he said, looking around confused.

Tails replied "I'm kind of lost too, to be honest. But I know we're headed in the general direction of Sally's capsule. I remember reading the schematics off Nicole." Tails steadied himself as the ship suddenly shook. "We better hurry. I kind of blew up the ship's fuel supply. It should have an emergency power source, but I'd imagine it won't last long."

Alphonse stood, and said, "Well, if you're sure about it, lead the way."

Alphonse jogged down the corridor as he followed the fox in the air. Finally, they came across a capsule. "Is this it?" Alphonse asked.

"It should be." Tails said. "We just need to apply enough pressure on the gold top up there. That will cause it to release prematurely, and release Sally without any problems." Tails flew over, and began to push on the gold top. "AAGGHH! This one is a lot stronger than usual!" he cried as he pushed harder.

"Allow me." Alphonse walked over to the capsule and climbed on its sides, as the chamber was almost as tall as him. When he was nearly at the top, he lined up a punch on the top. Like a martial arts master, he made a couple of practice swings to get the feel of it, as if he was preparing to break a board. After 3 of them, he threw down his punch and pushed the top down to its limits.

Something began to click….

Sonic ran over a contorted pipe, doing a loop-de-loop, and slid under a tight space before he was made into a pancake by a nearby screw-top gear. It seemed like nothing would be able to stop him. However, his pace was interrupted by a sudden shaking and caused him to trip, rolling another 100 ft until he stopped, lying on his stomach. "Whoa! I knew Nicole was going to make things wild here, but that was ridiculous!"

Standing up, and dusting himself off, he took a good look at where he was. "Aw, shucks. As handy as being able to go anywhere in reasonable time is, it doesn't make up for the fact that I'm still lost!" Sonic began thinking, tapping his foot. "If only ol' chrome dome was nice enough to give me a clue…"

"S-Sonic? Is that you?" a weak, feminine voice called.

Sonic's heart nearly jumped out of his throat. "No…it can't be…"

Out of the shadows stepped Sally. However, it looked like she'd seen better days: her vest was in taters, her hair and fur were signed and matted, and she was showing off a fair amount of cuts. "Sally!" In a split second, Sonic was at her side, easing her to sit down. Sally cried on his shoulder as he helped her settle down. "Sal! Shh…shh…it's cool. I'm here for you." He hushed her, patting her back.

Sonic wanted to comfort her longer, but deep in Robotnik territory, that would have to wait. "How'd you escape?" Sonic asked her.

Sally had to take a couple of deep breathes before she could form a coherent sentence. "I had some tools in my pocket that Robotnik didn't bother to search for. I managed to break myself free." Sally sniffled again, and pressed her face against Sonic's shoulder. "Oh, Sonic…I was so scared…"

"It's cool, Sal." Sonic assured her. "It's going to be alright. I'm here for you."

The doors opened. Ed didn't hesitate to step forward into the dark room despite the high chance of an ambush he was sure was coming. "Robotnik!" he called. Holding up the case strapped to his back, hoping he'd be able to somehow see it, the alchemist knocked on it. "I brought what you've wanted, bastard! Now let the princess go!"

At first, nothing. Finally, Robotnik, somewhere in the darkness, spoke. "Slide it in front of you. Quickly!"

Ed put the case down, and pushed it with his foot. Suddenly, as he heard its grinding come to a halt, the lights snapped on. Ed squinted at the sudden brightness at first. When his eyes finally adjusted, he could see Robotnik across the hallway, inspecting the case's contents.

He pulled out the rock with his robotic hand, and took a closer look. "Hmm…it seems to be the genuine article." He placed the rock on a pedestal, which took it in.

"Good." Ed growled. He then transmuted his arm into sword form, and briskly walked towards him. "Now that you've got it back, I'm going to pay you back for what happened at your tower!" Ed broke into run, charging the dictator. However, the doctor made no attempt to defend himself. Ed thought nothing of it, and brought his sword down…and felt a wave of electricity run through his body. "ARRRRGGHHHH!" Ed felt his body fly back onto the floor hard, his being still tingling with paralyzing pain.

"Hahaha!" Robotnik cackled. "You are brilliant, young man, but with my technology, I'm one step ahead of you." Looking closer, Ed could see some form of light between him and the doctor. Tapping the field, he explained "This force-field is designed to keep you where I want you. One more touch with that metallic arm of yours, and I'd imagine your heart would burst. But, by all means you are welcome to try."

Finally regaining some control over his body, Ed managed to slowly rise to his feet. Looking behind him, he noticed that the way back was sealed with that same electrical energy as well. "So, if you don't want me anywhere near you, why go through all the trouble of keeping me here?"

Robotnik sneered. "Quite simply….revenge."

Ed then heard something up above move. Looking up, it seemed to be some kind of convex light. "It takes a few seconds to charge. But once it does…I recommend you move out of the way. And don't do something as rash as using your alchemy this time around. If you cheat, I will trigger the incineration in the Princess's chamber."

Ed growled. "How do you even know she's where you left her? Sonic and the others are after her; they may have already found her." he said, hoping to bluff his way out.

Robotnik typed a few buttons on his arm. "Because the capsule's scanners are measuring her body heat and heart rate at this very moment."

Ed only groaned. "This guy has thought of everything."

"Now…let's have some fun." Ed heard the bulb above make a high pitch squeal, and rolled out of the way. A beam of light fired where he once stood, and left a smoking black spot on the floor. "Well…it'll be more fun for me than you, I suppose." Robotnik chuckled.

Ed only stared at him with rage. "You better hope that one of those shots connects. Because the first chance I get, I'm bringing you and this ship down!"

Robotnik only scowled at him. "I must say, I admire your spirit…let's speed things up a bit!"

The bulb began to follow Ed at a faster rate, sometimes cutting him off. The bulb charged, and fired. Though Ed managed to backflip out of the way, it was closer this time around, as he noticed his red coat singed and burned on one of the edges. Ed prepared himself for the next round. "Everyone…hurry!"

Sonic held onto Sally as she tried to pull herself together. However, he knew they had to move, right now. Still, to find Sally in such a state on a routine mission…this wasn't like her at all. "Sal…Sal, come on, get up." He helped the princess to her feet. "Listen, I know you just went through hell, but we've got to get out of here. We've got to get our friends together, and blow this ship before it reaches the Floating Island!"

Sally took a deep breath, and finally seemed to have regained some of her usual composure. "Y-you're right Sonic! We have to stop Robotnik, above all else!"

Sonic smiled in approval. "Now that's the Sal I know. Come on!" he said, pumping his fist towards her. "Let's do it to it!"

Sally, however, only gave him a puzzled look. "Uh…right…" She hesitantly brought her fist towards his. After they touched, Sonic placed his fist on top of hers. Sally repeated the action, albeit slowly, as if it was her first time doing the shake. After that, she didn't do anything.

"Come on, Sal!" Sonic complained. "You forgot the last part!" he said, giving a thumbs down.

Sally smiled, as if feeling silly for having forgotten. "Oh yeah…" she said, repeating the action.

Then, without warning, Sonic uppercutted her. Though Sally staggered, she did not fall over, and Sonic hissed as he furiously rubbed his hand. "OW! If you were Sal, I'd advise you to go on a diet! Or cut back on the steroids, at least!"

Sally looked at him in shock, then her surprise turned into malevolence. "So…you to figured out who I was…" she said, her voice becoming deeper and scratchier.

Sally grew until her true form as Envy was revealed. "I guess I should stop this imitating you guys…I don't know you all well enough to fool any of you…" Envy cracked his knuckles as he smiled wickedly. "But, there is a brightside to this. I get to break you without holding back." He giggled.

Sonic only sneered. "I'd like to see you try." Suddenly, something caught Sonic's eye in a reflection on the floor. Objects rushing towards him. He had not time to verify what they were, so he ran across the floor, where spears landed where he was. "Hey! That's cheating!" Sonic looked straight ahead to see Gluttony waiting for him, his mouth wide open. "Whoa!" Sonic jumped up, and bounced off of the ravenous homunculi's head. "And that was just plain dirty! C'mon, guys! Whatever happened to fighting mano y hedgehog?"

Lust finally walked out of the shadows, retracting her claws. "We're here to fulfill our partnership and stop you. Dr. Robotnik requested we keep you alive, but at the rate you're moving, I can't guarantee that now. Besides, Gluttony is hungry and the most successful predators are those that hunt in packs."

Gluttony only drooled at the site of the hedgehog, causing him to shudder slightly. "And Sal?"

"Where Robotnik left her." Lust said nonchalantly. "We hoped you would make this easy on us and fall for a girl in desperate need of help…but it seems you're not quite that shallow."

Sonic only grinned as he checked his watch, and crouched down, as if he was preparing to race somebody. "Well, I think I have a little bit of time to kill…so let's play!"

Sonic took off, charging at the three immortals.

"Uh…Tails?" Alphonse asked the fox. "Is this thing supposed to have eyes?" Al had a strange feeling he would never get used to or understand the technology in this world.

The capsule seemed to have come alive as a panel slid open to reveal somewhat comical looking eyes giving them both a death glare.

"No...I was always told that if you press the top, it would open, and that would be the end of that!" Tails replied, equally in shock as was Al.

The machine sprouted two chains it controlled like tentacles, revealing maces at the end of each. "Well, I think this one is trying to make itself out to be an exception!" Al yelled in alarm.

The badnik in disguise slammed its weapons on the floor. Fortunately, both Tails and Al were too quick for it.

"Let her go, you overgrown tin can!" Tails ran forward and kicked the living egg chamber. All it did was sprain his toe and irritate the robot. "Well, that didn't work!" Tails yelped as he took to the air to avoid another strike; it seemed to be getting quicker as it followed their movements.

Al charged as well, trying various martial arts strikes. He managed to make a small dent by giving it his all into a kick. Even though Al never tired, he knew brute strength would be an unreliable way to crack it open, not if they still planned on rescuing the princess. Al then blocked a mace aimed for him with a cross block. Though he managed to protect himself, he was thrown back 10 feet and had a few nice dents in his arms. "We're not going to beat it! Not like this!"

Flying out of the way of another mace attack, Tails looked at his watch. "We've only got 10 minutes left!"

"Tails!" Al called as he cartwheeled away from another attack. "I've noticed that right before it attacks, its eyes flash! Keep an eye on his eyes! I'll need you to draw its attention!"

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to make an opening!" Al pulled a piece of chalk from his loin cloth, showing it to Tails.

Tails smiled, remembering how he and his brother used those circles to do seemingly impossible feats. "Got it! You can count on me!" he said, giving a thumbs up. Turning his attention to the living egg chamber, he shouted, "Hey, ugly! Yeah, I'm talking to you! You're so fat, that buttnik is qualified to be your aerobics instructor!" None could say if the robot was genuinely irritated by the fox's insult. But its reaction was predictable enough, as it took a swipe at Tails. He dodged, but this time the space between him and the spikes were at a much safer margin. "He's right! Not only are those eyes are a giveaway for an attack, but when he does attack, it can't change direction! This is going to work!"

As Tails continued taunting the stationary robot, Al ran up to it and got to work on the transmutation circle, inscribing it on the side. "I can only guess at what material this is…but I'll have to try!" Just then, Al noticed a flash from the corner of his vision.

"Alphonse, look out!"

Al flipped out of the way as the egg chamber brought its mace down where Al stood only moments ago. "Looks like it's aware of its surroundings at all times."

"Have you finished the circle yet!?" Tails shouted as he dodged another strike by the skin of his teeth.

"Half way there!" Al said. "Keep him distracted! I'll get it down the next time for sure!"

Bunnie punched a hole through a swatbot, while St. John used a scrambler arrow to take out another one.

"Not bad." St. John said, feeling around his utility belt. "About time, to; I was almost out of arrows."

A multitude of damaged swatbots littered the immediate area. While it was generally unwise to take on so many at once, Bunnie's abilities and St. John's arsenal proved to be the deciding factors in their favor. "Well, sugar, you should find a weapon that does not rely on ammunition." Bunnie exclaimed to St. John's statement, holding her smoldering canon before returning her arm to normal.

The two, feeling it was time to move on, looked toward the citadel in front of them. "That it, hon?"

"If I remember the layout of the ship correctly, yeah, that should be it." The skunk confirmed.

"How much time we have?"

St. John took a quick glance at his watch. "Not long." He said. "Hurry, we better put a stop to this farce before it's too late."

As the two were about to make a sprint towards the citadel, some projectile landed in front of them, the explosion knocking them off their feet. Bunnie, flat on her back, turned around to see what shot them.

"Sorry; I haven't had much practice in this tank body of mine!" Crocbot gloated. "Don't worry; I won't miss a second time."

St. John rose with Bunnie. "Any idea who this bloke is?"

"I might have an ider, yeah." Bunnie said, dusting herself off. "If what Tails said was true about going to Downunda, that's Crocbot. One of Buttnik's sub-bosses."

"Sub-bosses, huh?" St. John asked rhetorically. "Well, we scrap this bucket of bolts, we'll put a major hurt on Ivo!" he exclaimed, slamming his hands together.

"You better watch your tongue, vermin!" Crocbot warned. "I don't take kindly to folks who are all talk!" he emphasized, pointing his barrel directly at the skunk.

"St. John." Bunnie interrupted. "Ah'd like to give this bot a thrashing as much as you do, but we don't have time for this. Sally girl is about to…"

"Correction." St. John said. "You don't have time for this." Bunnie's eyes widened when she realized what the skunk meant. "With your strength, you're the best choice to rescue the princess. Go! I'll be fine!"

Bunnie, wasting no time, ignited the rockets in her feet, taking off.

"You're not going anywhere!" Crocbot shouted, taking aim. However, one of St. John's arrows hit the barrel of his tank, and plugged the hole with foam. Crocbot fired nonetheless, breaking the foam, but it was strong enough to cut the shot's power by half and send it at an odd angle. The canon ball scratched the Flying Battery's hull and rolled off the side. Crocbot looked down, seeing the skunk had another arrow in his crossbow. "I guess I'll have to take care of you first!"

Al stepped back as he activated the transmutation on the egg chamber…and nothing happened!

"Al! What the-!?" Tails dodged a swipe by the spiked balls before he could voice his confusion. "How come it didn't change!?"

Al caught one of the maces, but despite his strength, was being pulled towards the monstrosity as it tried to take its weapon back. "I can't transmute material if I don't know what it's made of! Quick! What is this stuff made of!?"

"Uh…metal?" Tails replied.

"Could you be a little bit more specific!?" the young alchemist yelled. Al was finally forced to let go of the mace, and was clubbed by the other. Al struggled to sit up, only to be bashed into the floor again. "Unless we determine this thing's composition, we'll never get Sally free!" he said in between blows.

Quickly, Al made some conjectures as he blocked the robot's attack. "One way to narrow down a few suspects…" Al rose, and dove forward, seemingly trying to tackle the bot. Before it could react, Al quickly gave it a quick lift. As soon as he dropped it, he made a few estimates of its weight in his head. "I'd say about 100 kg…perhaps a titanium-aluminum alloy?" Quickly, Al drew another circle. Kicking a mace out of the way, he began another transmutation. The alchemic energy produced light, but failed to produce results. "Oh no! NO!" Al screamed as he slammed his fist against the chamber, forgetting it would fight back.

The egg-bot managed to whack the suit of armor clean on the torso, and Al fell flat on his back. "Damn it!"

"Al!" Tails flew behind him and with great effort, helped him back to his feet. "Any clues on what that thing is made of?"

"Judging by the weight, I've a few guesses. But we don't have time for guessing games. Sally's only got 4 minutes left in that thing!" Al quickly brainstormed. "Quick, do you know of Robotnik's normal supplies?"

Tails hastily replied "No. Wait…" Tails then remembered something.

"What is it?"

"A long time ago, I went on my own to stop one of Robotnik's sub bosses from obtaining some supplies of his."

"Good! Were there any metals listed?" Al quickly asked.

Tails began to list them off. "Let's see…um…steel, chrome, nickel, caesium…"

"Wait a minute! That last one! What was it!?" Al asked.

"Caesium!" Tails replied as he pushed his large friend out of the way of a downward mace strike.

Alphonse smacked his helmet. "Of course! He couldn't have prepared that thing in advance! He needed to use some materials that could help him make a simpler machine!"

"What?" the fox asked, clearly confused.

"Caesium is an alkali metal; upon contact with water, it combusts!" Al explained as he knocked another mace away with a kick.

Tails, despite his lack of understanding of chemistry, followed. "I get it! So, all we have to do, is pour water over that thing…"

"NO!" Al protested. "That will cause the whole thing to explode and take Sally with it! But, I think I know how to buy us some more time…"

"Leave it to me!" Tails flew towards the living chamber, diverting its attention. "Hey, your momma's so fat, she can't find whatever she spilled!"

The robot lashed out, losing its attention on Al. "Now's my chance!" Quickly, he drew another circle, and began another transmutation. But this time, he didn't try to transform the metal; he transformed the water inside into ice.

Then, the robot's eyes suddenly flashed red, causing Al to back away. "Okay! That may have made things worse for us…but at least I bought Sally a bit more time!"

"Can you open it up now!?" Tails asked as a spike grazed his cheek.

"Maybe." Al replied. "But even with the water inside frozen it's still going to take me some time! Time I'm not sure we have! We need to find another way to crack this egg open!"

"So, you haven't seen Archimedes?" Knuckles asked a tiny fire-ant in the Lava Reef Zone.

"Afraid not." The creature said. "Archimedes has always kind of kept to himself. Not even our queen knows his whereabouts at all times."

Archimedes was an unofficial member of the Chaotix (he was a little old, not to mention small, compared to the other members of the group). But still, after the Enerjak fiasco, Knuckles learned he came in handy…not to mention he was a good friend. And since their mission was the same, it was only natural to include him. "Great. He's been getting on my case about tackling my problems on my own, and when I come asking for his help at the first sign of trouble…" The echidna quit his grumbling; he knew better than that.

"Do not worry, my boy." The fire ant he had disturbed said. "Whatever is troubling you, I'm sure Archimedes is hard at work on the same problem as well."

"I hope so." Knuckles mumbled. It seemed all he could do now was to have faith that Archimedes would come to his aid when needed. "Listen, if you do see him, just let him know I'm looking for him. You have a nice day." With that, Knuckles flew off.

"I've done all I could. I just hope whatever Ivo has planned, we'll be ready."

"So, what do you make of it, Locke?" Archimedes, the fire-ant that Knuckles was looking for, asked a friend in a secret base located on the floating island.

The one whose shoulder he was standing on was none other than Knuckles own father: Locke. He resembled Knuckles quite closely, except for his goatee and gi. He led Knuckles to believe he had disappeared, but he had always been watching him in secret for years. "Dr. Robotnik is a problem that must be dealt with. I'm sure the Freedom Fighters of the surface are doing everything they can, but there are no guarantees." Locke typed a few keys on his console as he evaluated the island's secret defense system. "All systems go." However, the elder echidna was afraid to utilize it; if he were to activate it, Knuckles would investigate the source, and discover both Haven and the Brotherhood. In his opinion, Knuckles was not officially ready to be ordained into the Brotherhood of Guardians. "I really hope this won't be necessary."

"I'm sure it won't; Knuckles has become quite capable." Archimedes assured him as he adjusted his coat and hat.

"I know." Locke agreed. "It was just hard to stand by and do nothing when Knuckles ignored the signs that the island was hijacked." His son had a rough start as a Guardian; he often only addressed the obvious while not stepping back to see the big picture. A fault that he still seemed to have trouble with.

Archimedes assured him "He knows Robotnik well now; he will be vigilant, I promise. Although, it wouldn't hurt to lend him a hand…"

"If that becomes absolutely necessary." Locke answered. Locke was the most reluctant of the guardians to break the code of secrecy. "But if he is truly to become a guardian, he must be able to rely on himself and not count on miracles."

"It seems a miracle may be what we need." A new voice said.

Locke spun in his chair to see one of his predecessors as Guardian: Athair, his grandfather. The old echidna sported a darker complexion than his descendants, and his uniquely colorful dreadlocks made him stand out. His tribal get up along with a cane, a small chaos emerald embedded in it also differentiated him from the other guardians, who dressed like they did in the modern age. "You." Locke said hostilely. "This is of no concern to you old man."

"I see you've gone back to your old attitude towards me, even after consulting me about your visions so many years ago." He sighed as he leaned on his cane. "No matter; but as I've said, it is wiser to safeguard a universe than one single pebble in its belly, and that is exactly what is at stake here."

Though Locke wanted to argue more, he swallowed his pride and decided to hear him out. To his credit, his grandfather came to bother them only when it was truly important. "What is it you sense exactly?"

"Visitors from another world." He stated cryptically.

"Visitors? You mean like…aliens?" Locke asked skeptically.

"Not in the sense you're thinking of." Athair answered him. "Not even the walkers fully comprehend what's happening, but it seems like they're from another universe entirely. And somehow, it seems our two worlds have been connected for ages, even before the walkers."

Locke then asked "And the allegiance of these beings?"

"Some light, some dark." Athair stated. "However, should our two worlds stay connected for much longer, it could mean the end of both."

Locke nodded. "Where are they?"

"They're on their way here."

Locke immediately spun back to his computers and used the satellite feed to focus on Robotnik's ship. "So, some of them have allied with the doctor." He sighed. "This day just keeps getting better and better."

"And the others on our side are working with the quickster and double-tail to stop him." Athair explained. "I know not the consequences their presence will bring…but I know whatever happens, it will change our world forever." Then, three astral-like beings appeared behind him, displaying almost prehistoric-looking tribal masks. The Ancient Walkers, Athair's masters. "How you heed my warning is up to you." With that, all four disappeared. Archimedes looked back to the Flying Battery on screen.

"So, Locke? What do you make of this?" he asked. "It seems this problem is much more complicated than we imagined."

"Stick to the plan." Locke answered. "If some of these beings are indeed on our side, we should wait and hope Knuckles has learned from his 'punch first and ask questions later' approach."

"I doubt it." The fire-ant sighed. "I've been trying to work on his temper, but that boy loves to fight."

"I know." Locke sighed in irritation. "Go to him; he will need you."

"Of course." With that, Archimedes teleported to meet Knuckles.

Locke then placed his palms together, staring at the screen. "Now, let's see exactly what these visitors are."

Envy landed a kick on Sonic, but thankfully the hedgehog's reflexes were fast enough to roll with the blow and make sure it wouldn't hurt any worse than anything Knuckles could throw at him. "Ow!" Sonic said as he rubbed his cheek. "Temper temper!"

Suddenly, Gluttony's large arms encircled the hedgehog. Sonic desperately tried to breathe, but Gluttony's strength was quickly squeezing the life out of him. "Can I eat him!?" Gluttony asked his family. "Please, let me eat him!"

"Hurry up and do it." Envy growled. "We don't have much use for him anyways."

"Actually, not yet Gluttony." Lust ordered him. "If we want to keep our partnership intact, we'll have to let the hedgehog live. But, perhaps it's best if we break a couple of bones."

Gluttony, though disappointed, proceeded to squeeze his prey tighter…and suddenly, Sonic went into his Sonic Spin, cutting up Gluttony and embedding several quills in his skin. Sonic jumped off him and yelled "Sorry, tubby! Hedgehog a la mode is not on the menu, and he's definitely NOT a toy!"

Sonic jumped to his side as one of Lust's claws tried to impale him, only managing to graze his cheek. "Enough of this! Capture him, now!" the Ultimate Spear commanded her brethren.

All 3 Homunculi ganged up on him, preparing to rip his limbs off. Sonic ran straight for Gluttony, and narrowly ducked from being swallowed up, sliding underneath him. "Sorry, but I'd like to play some more!" Sonic then raced behind Lust, noggied her hair and before she could lash out, jumped in front of her and slapped her twice across the face in a comical fashion. "Tag! You're it!" Lust screamed in rage, and once again tried to impale the mobian. Sonic, running the opposite direction, proved to be too fast for them, but Gluttony rammed into him and threw him off balance. Landing on his back, Sonic saw Lust coming after him once more. Her claw reached for him, and Sonic spread his legs, leaving nothing but an empty space for it to impale. "Yikes! Shouldn't that count as a foul!?" Sonic then noticed Envy above him, his fist cocked back. The hedgehog jumped to his feet, avoiding the blow. Sonic once again ran away…and bounced off the wall. His Sonic Spin nailed Envy square in the nose, a move he couldn't anticipate.

Sonic charged for Lust next. "Fool!" Lust made her move and once again attempted to skewer him, but Sonic was too quick for her this time around. Grabbing hold of one the claws, he raced toward her, slid under her dress, and took two of the claws with him. Pulled by the force, Lust doubled over and fell flat on her back.

"Sorry about that. I'd ask Sal to buy you another one…but you're a very bad girl!"

Lust stood, seeing her skirt in tatters. "You…!" She wasn't concerned so much about exposing herself, but she felt her dress was a part of her. After regenerating her clothes, Lust launched more spears, but Sonic ran out of the way before they could do any harm.

Sonic suddenly yelped in pain as something sharp sliced across his back. Sonic dodged a second swipe by leaping into the air, but a sharp sword-like blade still managed to scratch his cheek once more. Sonic landed on his feet to see Envy's arm in the shape of a sword. "Hey! Ed didn't tell me you could do that!"

Envy only smiled evilly. "Because I never had to show him before. And I'm going to make sure you don't get a chance to tell him!"

Envy's other arm transformed into a snake head, which snapped at Sonic. Sonic dodged easily, but he was beginning to understand the way these guys fought. "He can hit a lot faster than that. Which means…" Sonic suddenly jumped forward as Gluttony came in from behind and tried to take his legs. Thankfully, all he got was a tasteful of steel. Sonic than did a homing attack on Gluttony, which only caused him to bounce off his rubbery body.

Thankfully, that was just what Sonic intended. The blowback sent him flying once again to Envy's face. "Ah, come on!" Envy yelled as he held his nose.

From there, he went into a spin dash, and rolled against the wall. Lust once more tried to stab him, but to no avail. Sonic tried to run under her dress once again, but this time, Lust reacted a little bit differently than expected. Using her nail spears, she lifted herself off the floor, leaving Sonic to harmlessly pass by.

The hedgehog, not expecting the sudden lack of resistance, went into free fall and tumbled towards the edge. "Okay. I'll give you that one." He huffed. Gluttony was suddenly upon him, and it was all Sonic could do just to roll to the side. Scrambling to his feet, he prepared to make another run, but Envy kicked him 10 feet into the air. Sonic landed roughly, the landing knocking the wind out of him. It took all of his will power to keep himself from passing out. Suddenly, he saw Lust's spears right in front of him. Sonic avoided any fatal stabbings, but one of them scrapped his leg. The placement of the others efficiently locked his body to the wall. Another spear jettisoned straight between the eyes…and stopped by a hair's breadth.

Lust panted deeply, a menacing grin slowly forming on her face. "I underestimated you." She gasped, her breaths slowing down. "The good doctor was right; you ARE quite the formidable foe. I suppose we owe him an apology for doubting him."

"Oh no; it isn't me." Sonic suddenly said, smiling with no trace of fear. "Buttnik's just an easy target is all."

"You're pushing your luck." Lust warned him, pushing her spear into his head just enough to draw blood. "I suppose it doesn't really matter anyway, for I'm sure the good doctor has something planned-"

Before Lust could finish her sentence, Sonic suddenly spun like a tornado, breaking off her nails. "Ahh!" Lust held her hands close as her fingers regenerated themselves.

Sonic, however, only continued to spin, boring into the metal floor and kicking up sparks, which thankfully kept the homunculi at bay. Finally, he was out of sight, the only evidence of his presence a drilled hole into the floor.

Envy and Gluttony came closer and peered down the hole, desperately looking for him. "Where'd he go?"

A grating noise clued them in, as the metal wall suddenly burst open from 10 feet above them, revealing Sonic stepping out onto the railing above. "Ow, ow…" Sonic rubbed his head as he tried to recover from the ordeal; boring through metal was not exactly an easy thing to do.

"Get down here, right now!" Envy growled in rage. Not waiting for a reply, the green-haired homunculus leapt into the air, preparing to pounce on the hedgehog.

Sonic rushed to the other side of the railing, and while he waited for Envy to understand the only thing he broke was metal, gave his answer. "Just give me a sonic second." Sonic ran out of sight…and was right back in Envy's face. "Actually, give me a couple."

Envy slugged a right, only to hit the wall again. "Hey!" Envy called to his comrades. "Get your asses up here and help me!"

Lust and Gluttony complied, rising above floor level and preparing to run into Sonic. A whistling noise behind Lust drew her attention. "There you are!"

Lust made her motion to impale him, but Sonic stopped short. "Catch!" Sonic tossed a live wire in her direction, one he pulled out of the various consoles located in all areas of the ship.

Lust's spears stabbed it, and the electricity traveled throughout her body. "Auugghhh!"

Sonic rushed past her, zooming between Envy's and Gluttony's locations. In a manner he didn't expect, Gluttony managed to catch Sonic with a punch. Though Sonic managed to block it with both his hands, the force still pushed him into the door of a broiler room and sent him flying inside. Sonic did not panic, however. He only stood and smiled. Signaling for Gluttony to come over, he said "Come on, fatty. I'll give you something to chew on."

Gluttony took the bait and lunged at him. Sonic, of course, zipped behind him, and Gluttony was left with the gas chambers. Upon biting down on them, the room exploded.

"Useless!" Envy growled. "Come on, coward! Show yourself!"

Then, Envy felt his shorts being pulled over his head. "Wedgie!" Sonic called, giving his usual cocky smile. Envy, disoriented from the prank, stumbled blindly and punched wildly. Of course, he hit nothing.

Lust, still singing from the shock she was given earlier, rolled her eyes at the sight of Envy blinded by his own pants. "Here." Grabbing the hem of the shorts, she pulled them back into place. "Of all the ways to be outwitted…"

"Shut up." Envy growled back. Gluttony came out of the broiler room, his skin still on fire. Of course, like his siblings, he was recovering quite nicely. But that didn't change the fact that all of them felt infuriated beyond belief.

"Now…" Lust thought as she looked around, believing Sonic would run into them any second now. "Where is he going to be next…"

"Hey! Yo! Over here!" The 3 homunculi looked down below to see Sonic back on the platform they were originally fighting on. "Sorry about that! It took longer than I thought to get down here!"

The 3 above only growled at him. Sonic then told them something that surprised them all. "Well, listen. This has been fun, but I've got to get going. Truth is I've only been using this distraction to find out where Sal is…the hard way! Not the most efficient, but it worked!"

The three homunculi blinked, and stared at each other. "This whole time...?" they all thought.

"We'll do this again sometime, I promise!" Sonic said, signaling good bye to them. "Ciao!" He took off to his right, leaving the 3 alone in the room.

"Wow…" Envy just said in disbelief. "That didn't go as I expected."

"Nothing we can do now." Lust sighed. "Come on; it's not the outcome we would have preferred, but we've done all we can."

Accepting their humiliation, the Homunculi left to find Robotnik.

Al cross blocked the eggbot's blows, but they were making pretty significant dents in his armor. To make matters worse, Al had no chance to counter attack. The robot was getting desperate to finish its function, and the spiked maces rapidly increased in speed. Al couldn't get any closer, and Tails desperately tried to maneuver into the robot's space.

Tails took a chance when he saw a small opening, and dived behind the robot. However, the eggbot spotted him, and knocked him out with a wide sweeping arc before he got too close.


The eggbot prepared a coup de grau…but when the mace landed, no blood spilled. Sonic the Hedgehog seemingly materialized in front of Al, carrying Tails in his arms. "Whew! That was close!" Tossing Tails to Al, he said "You did good, kid. But let me show you how it's done!"

Sonic ran around the eggbot, the monstrosity desperately trying to turn him into a blue pancake. Sonic spun faster and faster, making it look like a blue ring surrounded the robot. Then, he seemingly vanished.

"Right here!" The eggbot noticed Sonic right on top of it, and reacted accordingly. Fortunately, it's cognitive skills weren't great and didn't realize the consequences of its actions. Sonic leapt off at the last second, leaving the eggbot to damage nothing but itself. It's other arm went limp, and its body burst open like a balloon.

"And that is how it's done, Al." Sonic said smugly.

Quickly, Al and Tails, who had woken up, rushed to the eggbot to inspect it's insides. To the relief of all 3, Sally was inside, unharmed aside from any injuries the homunculi inflicted on her previously. "Sonic!" Sally made a motion to hug Sonic, but fell over when she realized she was still tied up.

"Here, allow me." Sonic began to undo her ropes. "Sorry, Sal. You must have been scared." He said sincerely.

Sally only smiled, grateful for having friends coming to her in her time of need. "Of course. But I knew you'd come for me!"

Sonic chuckled slightly. "Well, I can't take all the credit this time around. If it weren't for Al here, I don't think any of us would have made it in time." Al twitched, showing his shock. "Don't be modest, Al! Look, we all went over the time limit!" Sonic showed his wrist watch, indicating that the timer finished. "It's been this way for at least 2 minutes. I may not know exactly what you did, but I do know your alchemy saved Sal's life."

Al scratched the back of his helmet, chuckling nervously. "Oh, it's nothing…"

Sonic finished untying Sally. While she massaged her wrists, Sonic reached into his backpack. "Here." Sonic handed her Nicole. "Rotor wanted me to give her back; figured we might need her."

Sally nodded, and opened her up. "It's good to see you are alright Sally." The AI said.

"It's good to see you too, friend."

"NOO!" Robotnik screamed, smashing his fist against the console as he observed Sally's rescue. "Those monsters have failed!"

"Good to know." Ed panted out as he leaned on his knees.

Robotnik looked back at him in irritation. "I wouldn't celebrate just yet. You're still in my trap. And while you've done well to avoid a fatal blast so far, you're getting tired. In fact, I doubt you can dodge just one more."

Ed only grinned at his challenge, and rose. "Take your best shot."

Robotnik charged the beam on the ceiling again. "I suppose you'll be a good target as any to take my rage out on…"

Before it fired, Ed clapped his hands and placed them on the floor. The Alchemic energy blinded Robotnik for a split second, allowing Ed to move back a couple of inches. "You little ingrate…!" Robotnik fired…and the beam went through the floor, and blew a large hole in the ship. "What? NO!" Edward had altered the composition of the floor; its refractive properties were gone!

The lights went dead, and the force field that separated them fizzled out. Robotnik didn't waste time; before Ed could have a chance to attack him, Robotnik ran towards an escape elevator.

As soon as the doors were closed, the pod was washed with a red light, and began to descend. Seeing if anything could be salvaged from this mess, he contacted Snively. "Snively! Damage report!"

"Sir, I don't understand!" Snively screamed on the other end. "The room you were in should have been able to deflect any beam, no matter its power!"

"It was that cursed Alchemist. Now tell me how bad it is down there, NOW!" Robotnik demanded.

"I finally fixed the virus, for all the good it will do now! We have a full breach, our reactors are destroyed, we've suddenly lost our primary fuel source and we're losing altitude, fast! We must abandon ship!"

"For once, I couldn't agree with you more Snively." Robotnik sighed, any optimism to save the ship gone.

"But I do have some good news, sir!" Snively suddenly stated. "The Floating Island is in sight! Using our personalized ships, we can reach it!"

A new smile slowly formed on his lips. "Hmm. That is good news. Inform our new friends; we're abandoning ship and continuing with our destination!"

Robotnik cut off the line, and leaned against the wall. "I think it's best I do not mention to the Homunculi that I tried to kill their enemy when they specifically told me not to…" Looking at the case he carried with him under his arm, he smile broadened slightly. "If nothing else, at least I still have this…" Opening it up, it looked like it was indeed the disorganezero ore. Taking it out of his container, he brought it closer to his face. "With this, Robotization will be back online in no time." Suddenly, the changing colors ceased. "What's this!?" When it became black as coal, it began to crumble. "He…he tricked me!" he thought it disbelief.

He clenched his trembling fist, and yelled out his terrible rage within. "I HATE THAT ALCHEMIST!"

St. John was taking cover under a destroyed turret as Crocbot continued to blast away at him. "COWARD! Is this all the Freedom Fighters of Northamer have to offer!?"

St. John growled. "You wouldn't be saying that if I had more arrows." He was embarrassed to say his last arrow missed its mark.

Suddenly, he felt the ship drop so fast it nearly sent him flying. "Whoa!" St. John grabbed hold as the ship stabilized.

Crocbot, however, toppled over on his side. "Of all the-!"

"Attention! All personnel abandon ship! This is not a drill! Repeat, this is not a drill!"

Crocbot panicked and immediately rightened himself up. "I really should get a submarine attached to this tank…" Crocbot wheeled to the edge, and leapt off. His wheels extended to the sides like cumbersome wings, and rockets underneath slowed his fall.

St. John knew he should be getting off soon to. The question was how. Seeing a swatbot mount some kind of hovercraft, St. John sprinted for it. St. John leapt from his platform, and bashed the bot's head with an elbow as he descended. While its center of mass was off balance, he threw it off. "Sorry mate."

Hijacking the controls, he flew away from the falling ship, and towards the mysterious island in front of him that he only heard about from the other freedom fighters. "So, this is the famous Floating Island. I wonder what this Knuckles bloke is like."

"Abandon ship!" the alert repeated inside.

Sonic, Sally, Tails and Al heard the alarm as they got themselves together. "Whoa, Nicole. That was some virus." Sonic commented.

"Yes. Well…" Nicole replied in an uncharacteristically mobian like manner. "…this wasn't me!"

"Say what?"

"Snively managed to quarantine my virus! Something else caused this explosion!"

The 3 mobians looked towards Al…who then palmed his face. "EDWARD!" Sighing, he explained "He always winds up destroying things when they belong to a bad guy and he doesn't like them!"

"It might be for the best." Sonic said, looking around as parts of the ships began to collapse. "And I know I'm usually not the one to say this, BUT COULDN'T HE WAIT FOR 5 MINUTES!?"

Sally acted quickly to formulate a plan. "Nicole! Our coordinates, quick!"

"55 degrees north and 20 degrees west, Sally."

Sally grabbed Sonic's arm ecstatically. "That's the Floating Island's current coordinates! Sonic, we made it!"

"Yeah. Here's hoping Knucklehead is in a good mood." The hedgehog replied with a dose of sarcasm.

"Sugah-hog! Sally girl!" Everyone turned to see Bunnie running towards them. "Thank goodness y'all right!" she yelled as she hugged them both. "Now, what the blazes happened here?" she asked observing the pandemonium.

"Ed blew up the ship." Al groaned.

"The good news is that we're near Knuckles home!" Tails said. "We can fly from here!"

"One problem: I CAN'T FLY!" Al exclaimed, pointing to himself.

Bunnie walked over and gave his armor a tap. "It'll be a challenge, but I'll be sure to take care of that sugar! This arm o' mine can make anything possible!" Bunnie clasped her left shoulder and raised her roboticized arm proudly. "Come on!"

Takings Al's hand, the freedom fighters and alchemist escaped to find an appropriate exit.

The Homunculi began to race as they passed several swatbots, running around various parts of the ship. They understood well enough the term "Abandon Ship". The problem was understanding the protocol to evacuate when your ship was in the air.

"Ah! There you are!" The 3 turned to see Snively running up to them. "Phew…" Hunching over, he began to pant furiously. "Just give me a second to catch my breath…"

Snively screamed in surprise when Envy picked him up. "Take us to where we need to escape to, you little creep!"

"E-e-e-escape pods are all over this floor! There's enough room for one person, and there should be plenty for all of us!"

Just then, the part of the ship they were on broke off. Many parts of the walls exploded and fell to the ocean below, nearly sucking them up into the air current. The 4 quickly looked for one of the pods before gravity would take its toll. They found one intact, and only one. They then eyed Snively, who was looking nervous. "S-Surely, they're not thinking…" Envy tossed him aside, and he and his family crammed into the pod. "They were!"

Snively ran up to the specially enforced plexi-glass window. "Open up!" he screamed, pounding on the glass. "I'm small! There will be plenty of room for all of us!"

"Afraid not." Lust said, unconcerned. "Gluttony is making this tight as it is." She grunted as Envy and Gluttony tried to readjust themselves. "Sorry; it's just bad luck on your part."

"NOOO!" Snively furiously pounded on the door. When he saw the rockets ignite, Snively desperately planted himself on the window and hoped he would stick. "I hope this plays out like in the comic books I hid from Uncle Julian!" The pod took off, as the air drowned out Snively's screams.

Sonic, Sally, Tails, Bunnie and Alphonse finally made it outside. Alphonse shielded himself from an explosion that threatened to throw him and everyone else off. The whole ship was coming to pieces, and one couldn't say exactly how much time they all had left.

Quickly scanning the horizon, Sonic spotted the Floating Island close by. "Perfect! We're right on top of it!" Turning to Tails, he began giving his orders. "Okay, listen up everyone! Tails, you carry Sal to safety! I'm counting on you!"

"Wait a minute!" Sally protested. "You can't just expect me to be carried to safety while you-"

"Got a better plan, Sal?" Another explosion rocked the ship, this one more intense than the last. Taking the silent cue that she conceded to him, Sonic continued. "Bunnie, you carry Al as well. I'll take care of myself! We clear?"

"Crystal!" Bunnie replied. Taking Al's hand, she said "Come on, Sugar!"

The two took off, while Tails prepared to fly. "Be safe, Sonic!" Sally said before she took hold of his hands and was hoisted off.

"Cool." Sonic exclaimed, tapping his foot. "That's done. Now, for the hard part…" The ship broke apart, and rubble littered the air. In all the chaos, for just a split second, Sonic saw a path to safety. "Bingo!" Sonic took off, and leapt off the edge. He planted himself onto one piece of rubble, and jumped towards the next. He repeated this pattern, with the debris perfectly lined up for him, until he finally reached the edge of the island. "Sweet! I'd give that a perfect 10!" To be fair though, he almost always gave himself a perfect score for his stunts. "Now, where did Sal and the rest go…?"

"Ed! ED!" Hearing Al's cries, Sonic raced towards the source to see his friends staring at the warship's continued destruction and descent. Once he reached them, he could see Sally and Bunnie restraining Al. "Send me back up! I've got to find Ed!"

"I'll get him!" Tails said as he twisted his tails. "Leave it to me!"

A hatch somewhere on the ship opened up to the outside, a gloved hand pushing it out of the way. "Crap!" Ed shouted as he emerged. "I gotta get out of here!" Quickly sprinting blindly, Ed dodged fire and shrapnel that would have torn his body apart as he desperately tried to find a way off.

Finally, he reached the edge with nowhere to run. But that wasn't what caught his attention. An island in the sky was what caught his eye. "Holy-! The Floating Island! It's real!" Nearly being pushed off the edge by another explosion, Ed waved his arms in a desperate attempt to maintain balance. "I'll ask questions about it later! But, how am I going to get off!? It's not like I can just grow wings and-"Ed stopped himself when he saw the edges of his now tattered jacket flutter in the wind. Ed looked back and forth between them and the island. Groaning, he finally shouted "Well, it's not like this is the most impulsive thing I have done!"

"Actually, it is." He told himself.

Backing up a bit to give himself a running start, Ed leaped off the edge. Quickly feeling gravity taking effect, he clapped his hands and grabbed the hem of his jacket. It suddenly ballooned itself into something much wider and lighter. Thanks to his self-made parachute/wings, Ed was beginning to slow down…but not enough for a safe landing! Fortunately, Ed found he still had some control over which direction he wanted to go. "Stay calm…" He rotated himself to the right, his descent still not slow enough for his liking. Ed looked towards one of the many jungles on the island, and gritted his teeth. "I'm going to be sore in the morning…but that's better than being dead!" Ed then aimed himself towards the trees as the entire battery behind him blew up.

"ED!" Al screamed as Sonic and Tails held him back. "No…" he began to despair.

"Wait, he's alive!" Sally yelled excitedly as she looked through a small telescope. "He used his alchemy to turn his cloak into a glider!" Her smile slowly turned into a frown. "He seems to be having a bit of trouble controlling it…"

As soon as Ed was in everyone's view, he flew past them. It was hard to say for certain, but it sounded like he was screaming "Ahhhhh…"

Sally quickly ordered Sonic and Tails "Follow him!" The two mobians obliged and sped off into the jungle.

"Whoa…Whoa!" Ed was skirting the canopy of the jungle as his altitude began to steadily drop. Though he was counting on it to break his fall, he had to make sure it wouldn't break his neck as well. Soon, it seemed he had no choice but to land. "Oh no, here it comes…!" His feet finally caught a branch, and he was sent tumbling across the treetops. "Ow, ow OW!" He finally fell through the canopy, and his torso hit a branch straight in the solar plexus. From there, he began tumbling to the floor below, each branch a painful greeting.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Ed fell to the ground face first. His body twitched as it struggled to move amongst all the pain. "Oh…I'm surprised I'm not dead…"

"Thank the Ancients you are not; you are not meant to die here…"

Ed got his face off the ground and stared at the weirdest creature he had ever seen. He couldn't identify the individual's species at all; all he could readily tell was judging from the wrinkles on his head that he was very old. The creature also seemed to have dreadlocks hanging from his brown fur, each covered with candy-like rings. His cane and fur tunic gave the impression of a primitive but wise being. "And just what are you?" Ed asked as he strained to stand.

"It does not matter." The mobian replied. "Your journey in this world has now become a part of your destiny. And now, you must defend this world from the evils of yours, as well as yours from ours."

Ed looked at him oddly. "Wait. You know about my…situation?"

The creature only turned away and answered cryptically "That of yours, and your brother. And your powers. A wondrous gift. But with all that power, you will still need those that fight for freedom here, as they now need you."

Ed looked away, scratching his head. "What's with this guy?" "Yeah, I kind of gathered…" Ed turned to look at him, only to see he was gone. Not a trace of him anywhere, not even footprints. "Weird."

Ed flexed his automail arm, and for a split second, felt it stall. "Jeez! I better get back home soon and have Winry have a look at this…if it breaks again, she'll kill me…"

Little did he know, he was being watched. "An overlander!? He's probably with Robotnik!"

As Ed proceeded to brush himself off, he suddenly felt himself tackled from behind. Whatever it was, it had some sharply pointed ends. Ed managed to find his footing and turn around, but his attacker threw a wild haymaker to his temple. Despite the small size of the attacker, he was apparently very strong. And vicious. Ed couldn't get a good look at his assailant due to the punches his face was bombarded with. "GET OFFA ME!" Ed transmuted the ground beneath him, and sent his attacker reeling with a column to the stomach.

Upon observation, Ed quirked his eyebrow. It was another creature almost identical to the one he saw just a moment ago. This one was obviously younger, like Sonic wore virtually no clothes and his fur was a bright red color. Ed also made note of the crest on his chest. "Listen, I don't want any trouble!" Ed said to him.

"That's too bad…" The creature replied, recovering from the blow and smashing his fists together.

Ed's eyes nearly widened looking at his gloved fists; they were like boxing gloves with spurs. "No wonder his punches hurt so much."

"…cause you sure got it. In the form of Knuckles the Echidna no less!"

I suppose the next chapter will be quite…predictable. But I'll do my best to make sure it will be fun! Thanks for sticking with me, and I'll do my best to turn out the next chapter sooner!