January 12, 195X
Finally, the ARK is complete. The construction has been going on in space these many years, the parts launched up as they have been completed, and now that the space filters are operational, habitation can begin. Just in time.
My granddaughter will be born within the month. It would be best for her to be raised here, on the surface of the planet, growing up with other children her age, but that is not possible. Not in these circumstances. NIDS is fatal and incurable, so my only chance of helping her is to take her with me.
I want to do what I can for her. I want her to live the life my son would have wanted her to have. If I can accomplish what the government wants, then I can find an answer to curing her, one way or another.
Chapter 1 - Professor Gerald
Gerald Robotnik sat behind his desk, staring down at the paperwork in front of him. The government letterhead glared back at him, taunting him with the contents that he dared not read. He had to read it, though: so much depended on its content, even though he knew what it would say. The long letter, two whole sheets, was a light cream color, their straight edges lined up and overlapping. It almost shone, the dark surface of his desk providing a poetic contrast. It was the letter that would seal his fate, he realized, but it would save someone else's.
His unborn granddaughter was fated to die. She had been diagnosed with NIDS just a month before, a rare, fatal, incurable disease that would impair her and eventually kill her. Her life hung in the balance, and she hadn't even taken her first breath. It was disheartening for him, his older son having died in an accident at work three months before the diagnosis. Gerald's younger son was barely out of university.
Gerald knew he was old. His moustache was graying and he was bald, though he had never had much hair to speak of. He wanted to see his grandchildren, be a good grandfather to them, but now his one opportunity was being snatched away. His granddaughter might die before she could speak her first word.
The letter on his desk was both a blessing and a curse. It was his chance to save his granddaughter's life, but it went against everything he believed.
The government had contacted him a few years before with an idea. They wanted to discover the secret to immortality, an idea dreamed up by the President himself. Initially, Gerald had abhorred the idea. It was beyond the limit of what humans should be capable of. Humans, like all creatures, were meant to die: such was the cycle of life. The government, however, had insisted on continuing their endeavor, and insisted on calling him in to lead the team of scientists they had assembled. He had refused many times, but still the letters came.
Now, the situation was different. Immortality would be the key to saving his granddaughter. When he had made that realization, Gerald had sent his own letter to the government, apologizing for his previous statements and asking to be let on the team. The government's reply was that his invitation had never expired.
Now, sitting at his desk, staring at the letter that he knew would include the date of his job's initiation, he wasn't so sure he could go through with it.
For one thing, it went against his ethics. Creating immortal life was crossing the limits. Second, he was unsure about working in space. The project would run on the government's new space colony, named ARK. Despite assurances that the facility would be a better-than-expected environment to work in, Gerald was still unconvinced. The third problem he had was that he would have to take his granddaughter up there with him, and there was one major problem with that: her mother would never allow it.
"Did something change?"
The voice made him look up. Standing in the doorway to his office was Samantha, his daughter-in-law. She was a beautiful woman, young and proper, though she often still showed signs of her youth. Her long blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail, not a single hair out of place despite the overall disheveled appearance she carried. There were slight bags under her eyes and her clothes were rumpled and creased, the fabric pulled taut across her round stomach.
"You shouldn't be on your feet like that," Gerald scolded, starting to get out of his chair to guide her back to bed.
She waved him off, coming to sit on the edge of his desk. "I've spent enough time sitting around. I can tell that my little girl wants to see the world, so I can't just sit around on my backside doing nothing."
Knowing she would never give up her argument, he sat back down. "I still think you should stay off your feet. With everything that could happen-"
"I know well enough. Sometimes I think you're the one who's pregnant."
"I had children. I've spent enough time caring for my wife to know what to do."
"I know," she smiled, "and I'm thankful for your support. But… you still haven't told me about the letter."
"More government business, no doubt," he grumbled, not wanting to tell her he hadn't read it, hoping she would drop the subject.
Instead, she picked up the letter and began skimming it. He didn't stop her, not wanting to upset her delicate position by starting an argument. As she read, her serious expression deepened further and further into a scowl. "What's this 'Project Shadow' business? It sounds fishy."
The unfamiliar term caught his attention. "What?"
"You haven't read the letter, have you?" she asked rhetorically, raising an eyebrow. She began to read it aloud: "'Dear Prof. Gerald Robotnik,'
"'We are pleased to inform you that the preparations aboard Space Colony ARK are nearly complete and that the date of launch will be on January 30th, 195X. Shuttles before this date will be carrying supplies to the colony as instructed below:' Then they list a long procedure that you probably already know about; putting the items in special containers, loading them onto the shuttle and keeping the compartment at certain temperatures to preserve… something. Scientific stuff," she mumbled, "Anyway… 'Before the 20th of this month, we also require a list of personal materials and a date and time with which to pick them up. They will be launched to the colony using the above listed procedure and left in your assigned workspace, which will be given to you upon arrival on the colony. A list of scientists working in this lab will also be given to you upon arrival.'
"'We must remind you that secrecy concerning Project Shadow is of the utmost importance-'" She paused to turn to the second page. "'and that any and all contact with anyone on the subject will result in serious penalties.' That's it. There's a logo on the bottom of the page. Here." She handed him the sheet.
Gerald took it, for the first time seeing the logo printed on it. It was a hexagonal shape made of three red arrow-like bars surrounding a yellow circle. The circle was divided into thirds by thick red lines, the arrows connected to the yellow sections by black lines that outlined every piece. The words 'Project Shadow' were printed underneath in thin grey capital letters.
Gerald placed the page down on his desk, the logo between the two of them, and leaned back in his chair. "So this is the name that they gave it."
"But what does it mean? What's this project?"
"I can't say. It is a secret government project. There's no doubt about that. That they made it a project only makes it official."
Samantha leaned over the paper, staring at the logo upside down. "I'm getting a bad feeling about all of this. Something… sinister." She looked back up at him. "Are you sure you can't tell me? This involves me just as much as it does you."
He almost smiled, wanting to tell her just how right she was, but he didn't. "It's a government project to discover immortality."
"That's ridiculous!" she scoffed. "It sounds like something out of one of those bad science-fiction novels that are all the rage these days. Are you sure that's not where they got the idea?"
"Who knows. They want me to head the project."
"And you agreed?"
He looked back at the logo, feeling some of the dread that she had felt. Now he had connected his dread of the letter previously with the logo, deciding that somehow the unease had radiated through the first page and out to him.
She changed the subject. "But why call it 'Project Shadow'? It doesn't sound logical."
"A name is a name."
"A name is important. You're a professor: that name has meaning. You even said it yourself. This whole thing became more real because they finally decided to call it a 'project'! A name isn't just a name. A name has meaning, purpose. 'Shadow' must have a purpose. That's the only explanation."
"And I don't know what it is. It could mean any number of things. A shadow is dark, hidden… a secret? The project is surrounded by secrecy. A shadow is intangible, so it may mean an elusive goal. Maybe they labeled it a lost cause?"
"That would mean they have a sense of humor," she huffed. "Unlikely."
"Whatever the reason, they've named it, and I must prepare." He reached into his desk and pulled out a pad of lined paper, planning to make a rough list of materials before he finalized it and printed it to send. Samantha handed him a pen before he could reach for one.
"Planning to take the robot?" she asked, gesturing over her shoulder. A large crate sat in the corner of the room, blocking off access to the desk from one side. It was plastered with stickers laying out multiple warnings in many different languages. Inside it sat a robot, a very special robot, one that held answers to Gerald's true field of study: the Fourth Great Civilization.
The Fourth Great Civilization existed many years before, a civilization that wielded a great deal of power and was very technologically advanced. His research had connected them to the history of the nearly-extinct clan of echidnas, the Knuckles Clan. He had tracked both the Knuckles Clan and the Fourth Great Civilization to a series of ruins in the jungle that he had found many years before, when his oldest son had still been in high school, and had made some interesting discoveries.
The greatest of these discoveries was a large mosaic that depicted the battle between two seemingly very powerful entities. The first was a large, semi-transparent sea serpent that took up much of the mosaic. It was fearsome, a trait Gerald made sure to capture in his pictures, but it was evident that the mighty serpent was losing the battle. Its opponent was the least-threatening creature he had ever seen, a small creature surrounded in a golden light. Despite being outclassed by the serpent in nearly every way, the little creature was obviously the centerpiece, attracting the most attention with its glow.
He had hit a roadblock in his research for a while until he had stumbled across the robot. Someone had abandoned it in an empty, unused warehouse, leaving it to succumb to rust and degradation. Gerald, with some help, had managed to secretly cart the robot away, placing it in the box and shipping it to his office. However, in all the excitement surrounding the project and his son and Samantha's baby, he had never been able to look at it closer. He just didn't have the time. So in the box it remained, the large wooden crate collecting dust in its corner.
"Yes. The project will take some time," he mused aloud. "I'll have the time to look it over, and the resources on the ARK should be more than sufficient."
Samantha tapped the heel of her foot against the desk, swinging her leg slightly. "You'll be spending a lot of time up there. Transport isn't cheap."
"The government is spending a lot of money on this venture. I wouldn't be surprised if they're cutting costs in other departments just to make up for it."
"And the taxpayers are sponsoring the whole thing? This better be worth the trouble, though I can't see too many people being interested in this crazy idea."
Gerald stared at the paper. "Secretly, everyone wishes to be immortal. No matter what they say when asked, if the option were available, they would do anything to obtain it. The greed of beings like us knows no limits."
"Well, I don't want to live in a world like that. I don't think anyone should be forced to live in that greed, and I don't want to be raising Maria in it."
Samantha hummed an affirmative and then lightly patted her bulging stomach. "Maria. That's what I'm naming her." She stood up, grunting as she staggered to her feet. "I should probably lie down. I'm feeling a little dizzy."
"Would you like me to help?" Gerald asked, already on his feet.
She waved him off. "Finish your list. 'Project Shadow' is your chore; Maria is mine. No matter what, I think we can both succeed on our own." Giving him a small smile, she wobbled out of the room, leaving him to decide what to do.
Well, the first thing I post in almost two months... and it's this. I got back into Sonic games recently and, even though I suck really badly at them, I'm enjoying every moment playing them. This was a random crazy idea that I got, and you wouldn't believe how many alterations I had to make to get all the details right, and even then I still probably don't have everything right. Bare with me on this; the first couple chapters won't be too interesting, since they're only setting up the plot, but it'll pick up.