Sonic Adventure 2 adaptation- part 11.

"Wishes are Forever"

By Thalia 'RockChick' Evans.



* * * *

Chapter 1

Location: Cannon Control Room, ARK

Clustered around the shaft of light which held the Chaos Emeralds were six animals. They were the only ones who had a chance of saving the future of Mobius, and had only ten minutes to pull it off. One of the six had suggested a plan- a drastic one, perhaps, but with some chance of success.

However, Sonic the hedgehog would have none of it.

"I ain't doing it. No way, not this hedgehog." he stormed, shaking his head furiously. Tails gave him a pleading stare.

"But, Sonic…If we don't stop ARK in the next ten minutes, Planet Mobius is finished!"

That much was true. The space colony ARK was hurtling towards the planet, guided by the prototype creature known as the Biolizard. Within ten minutes, the artificial satellite would become irrevocably caught in Mobius' gravity, making impact a certainty.

Shadow gave Sonic a puzzled stare, not comprehending why he was so reluctant. It was obvious to both hedgehogs that the prototype's power had increased dramatically; and the one thing that could defeat such a creature of Chaos was another.

"The only way to stop that creature outside is to transform using the Chaos Emeralds," he reminded his blue counterpart.

Sonic furiously whipped around to face him.

"And run the risk of destroying everything?!" the blue hedgehog snapped. "I could become worse than Super Sonic was."

Shadow's frown became deeper.

"Super Sonic?"

Sonic looked down, reluctant to talk about it- yet now realising that Shadow had no idea of what he had been through.

"I…I used to transform into this uncontrollable demon, whenever I got exposed to Chaos energy," he explained painfully.

The black hedgehog nodded in sudden understanding. He had realised some time ago that Sonic's powers were somewhat unstable compared to his own- and too much Chaos energy undoubtedly had the effect of magnifying negative emotions such as hate and anger. Even though Shadow had been designed to harness the power of the Chaos Emeralds, he didn't know if he would be able to avoid this effect if he ever transformed into his ultimate form.

"Dr. Gerald suspected something like that might happen." he began. Towards the end, not long before the military had invaded ARK, the scientist had started working on a way to solve the problem. "That's why he invented this…"

Shadow held up his left arm, displaying the bracelet on his wrist. "The control ring." He unfastened the metal band and handed it to Sonic, who scrutinised it carefully. Apart from some circuitry on the inside, the ring looked like nothing more than an item of jewellery- frowning, Sonic looked up.

"Wait a second. You're saying that this thing will stop me from going crazy?" He turned the ring over in his hand, noting the black and yellow colouring and the red cloth flap- identical to one Shadow wore on his right arm. "How do I know it'll work?"

The dark hedgehog finished rearranging his glove, and met Sonic's gaze with an even stare.

"Dr. Gerald's creations don't go wrong often," he said, a little proudly. Sonic winced slightly- had he taken that as an insult? -as the other hedgehog cautioned him that "The ring is only designed to be used once."

Sonic nodded thoughtfully, thinking it over. He didn't want to do this… it wasn't just the destruction he might cause that bothered him, he realised, but also the loss of his new- found freedom. Ever since the incident on the Timeship Infinity, he hadn't needed to fear becoming Super Sonic. He hadn't had to live under the constant threat of destroying everything that mattered to him… even though Porker had warned him that since he was still powered by Chaos energy, he might still undergo some kind of transformation.

He had hoped to avoid it. Now it seemed he would have to volunteer…

But then there were the people of Mobius to consider. Shadow was right; the Biolizard had power that rivalled Perfect Chaos'. There was no other way to stop it… and Sonic couldn't just abandon his world to that fate, even if it meant facing one of his worst nightmares.

Sonic looked up, his decision made. Face grim, he shouted to the others:

"Everyone, get out of here… just in case."

As Tails, Amy, Knuckles and Rouge made a hasty exit, Sonic fastened the control ring onto his left arm. He nodded to Shadow.

"Let's get this over with."

Two hedgehogs, once adversaries but now united by a common goal, turned towards the seven Chaos Emeralds. Both tapped into inner reserves of power, and the emeralds began to glow in response… until two beams of iridescent green Chaos energy lanced out from the Master Emerald.

The first hit Shadow squarely in the chest. He simply closed his eyes and calmly allowed the energy to flow through him, feeling his body change. As always, he was totally in control.

Shadow eventually opened his eyes -which were still crimson-, and experimentally flexed a hand to gauge how much his strength had increased. He noticed that his fur was now the colour of polished chrome, throwing off dull reflections of the surroundings- except for the red streaks that still remained. He sensed that his Chaos Control ability was more advanced- Chaotic space was now his to command, as long as he had enough energy.

Although he couldn't have known it, Shadow was now more powerful than Super Sonic. He felt awed- finally, he had achieved his true power. He wondered briefly if this was what Dr. Gerald had meant by 'The Ultimate Life form.'

While Shadow's transformation was under his control, Sonic's was just the opposite. The Chaos beam engulfed him. For a moment the feeling was almost a relief- he felt the wound on his side heal, and his fatigue vanished, to be replaced by a sensation of incredible energy.

But then the transformation began for real--

The hedgehog staggered back, every cell resonating with pain as he was wrenched into a different form. Sonic couldn't suppress a strangled cry as every moment of rage and hate he had ever experienced washed over him- he realised that the control ring wasn't working, then all coherent thought was lost in the sudden, overwhelming need to destroy.

Mercifully, the ring quickly tuned itself to Sonic's brain patterns, and the rage and pain gradually faded to an intense throb of power throughout his entire body. The hedgehog shook his head as his thoughts cleared, feeling overwhelmed.

…so much power…

Although any memories he had of Super Sonic were hazy, he knew that this was something different- it was more like… Hyper Sonic.

His eyes had been emerald green, but now they were a fierce, searing yellow, and the pupils were white. Moving his head, Sonic felt that the balance had changed- meaning the shape of his spines had altered. They now projected straight out behind him, like blades, and were of no one colour- instead being like a constantly shifting rainbow.

The two hedgehogs were too preoccupied with what was happening to them to notice warning signs begin to appear on the computer screens. Among them were 'Warning: Chaos Energy Overload' and 'Emergency Eject Procedure Initiated'…

The seven Chaos Emeralds were sucked down the emerald shaft, and moments later seven points of light arced out into space…

Meanwhile, somewhere on Mobius…

The golden-brown hedgehog known as Shade stared up into the night sky, puzzled.

Through his tinted shades- which he even wore at night- the stars and shattered moon had a bluish glow. A brighter point of light- more of a shining disc, really- stood out like a glowing beacon; ARK was at the very limits of his Chaos-sense, yet he could still detect the energy from the space colony.

"Strange," he said, partly to himself and partly to his Chao, Sparky. "I sense three huge energy signatures…" He paused, head tilted to one side; as if listening for something only he could hear. Concentrating, he could just about pick out the seven emeralds, which weren't where they were supposed to be. "And now the Chaos Emeralds have left ARK."

But it was the three big powers that bothered him. One he did not recognise. The second matched energy he had sensed from Shadow, and the third…

The third was unnerving. It was the first one he had detected, and made something stir in the back of his mind- something he had thought was long dead.

That energy had to belong to Sonic.

"What the heck is going on up there?" he murmured, dreading the answer.

* * * *

Chapter 2

Location: Outside ARK

For a moment, two brilliant green flashes lit the blackness of space.

Emerging from Chaotic Space, Shadow glanced quickly at the fast-approaching sphere of Planet Mobius.

"We have to act quickly, Sonic…" the silver hedgehog cautioned. "There isn't much time."

Sonic followed his gaze, nodding as he realised how disturbingly close the space colony was getting to his world.

"Yeah- we have to stop ARK getting caught in Mobius' gravity." He realised then that he shouldn't be able to hear his own voice in space, and took a breath of air-- lucky for him that ARK had it's own atmosphere. In his Hyper Sonic form, surviving without oxygen would have been easy… but it would have consumed a lot of energy, energy he knew he was going to need.

His heart was pounding faster than it had any right to, and Sonic felt like he was burning up… his body wouldn't be able to sustain this kind of power for very long, and he grimaced at the thought of what damage it might be doing to him.

And he had no idea what Shadow was capable of. Their energy levels were roughly equal, but who could tell how each hedgehog would handle that energy?

The two of them skimmed the surface of ARK; moving effortlessly in the low- gravity environment. It was odd how quickly they got used to their new forms- almost as if some chaotic instinct was guiding them.

"There it is," Shadow murmured, as they approached the Eclipse Cannon's tower. "The Biolizard."

When Tails had said the creature had become one with ARK, he hadn't been kidding. The sections of the tower had closed over the huge orange and grey reptile, so that only the front half of its body projected into space. Myriad wires had snaked out of the Cannon and impaled the prototype's flanks… or perhaps the cables had originated from inside the beast- it was impossible to tell. One cable still arced from the Biolizard's head to the damaged machinery along its spine; the other floated free, globules of green liquid flowing from the severed end and freezing in the cold of the thin atmosphere.

The thing turned its blind face towards the approaching energy signatures, and screamed deafeningly.

"…And he's not very pleased to see us," Sonic pointed out.

Green sparks flickered around the monster's jaws, then it arched its neck and vomited a beam of pure, deadly emerald energy in the direction of the two hedgehogs.

Sonic swerved to avoid the deadly beam, and Shadow twisted out of the way. Before the creature could fire another shot, the silver and red hedgehog launched into a flying spin attack- impacting with a dull thud on its exposed belly.

"Take that, you ugly prototype!" he yelled on the rebound, coming to a standstill beside Sonic.

The Biolizard snarled. The eyeless skull seemed to glare at the duo, jaws slightly parted in what seemed like a grin.

"Not a scratch… tough little thing, isn't it?" Sonic shook his head, slightly dismayed. The creature's strength had increased more than he had realised…

"How did it become so powerful?" Exclaimed Shadow, a hint of disbelief in his usually calm voice. That attack should have worked! He had beaten the prototype before- how could he fail this time, now that the power of the Chaos Emeralds was flowing through him…?

Sonic looked thoughtful.

"I dunno… maybe it's drawing its energy from ARK." The rainbow hedgehog shrugged; and his vivid yellow eyes suddenly flashed wickedly. "Guess you can choose your friends but not your family, huh Shadow?"

Shadow's red eyes glowed with fury.

"That… that thing is not--" he started to snap. Sonic raised his hands in a calming gesture, before shooting off to take his own shot at the Biolizard.

"Chill, Stripes. I was just kidding!" he called. Sheesh, Sonic thought, couldn't he take a joke? Shadow was obviously still really touchy about that ultimate life form business, but Sonic was willing to bet there was a sense of humour hidden in there somewhere.

"How can you joke at a time like this?!" exclaimed the exasperated chrome hedgehog, following Sonic as he rocketed towards his target.

"You need a sense of humour in this line of work--" Sonic's foot lashed out at the Biolizard's chin. The head snapped back, jaws slamming together on the thick yellowish tongue with a satisfying crunch.

"--I guess it helps stop things from getting me down!" Sonic grinned over his shoulder. That was true; and it worked- most of the time. Like now, for instance.

But Sonic didn't see the swipe coming--

The paw of the Biolizard swung around, knocking the hedgehog aside. Dazed, he allowed momentum to carry him out of the creature's striking range.

"Ow," Sonic muttered, righting himself. He could still feel pain, just as intensely as in his normal, blue form- but as Hyper Sonic it faded more quickly, because his body healed much faster than usual. An ordinary hedgehog would have been killed by the powerful blow. As it was, Sonic suffered several cracked ribs which immediately started to repair themselves… feeling the energy drain as his body regenerated, he warned himself that he wouldn't last long if he suffered a few more hits like that. He would have to be more careful.

Coming to a stop beside him, Shadow raised an eyebrow.

"Not bad, Sonic."

Recovering, Sonic grinned.

"Is that sarcasm I hear? You're learning!" Amber eyes narrowed, amused.

Shadow regarded him with an 'as-if' expression.

"Actually, I was serious…" he began, although not completely sure that was entirely true. "Look!"

He pointed towards the Biolizard, which emitted an agonised groan and shook its head groggily.

"All right!" beamed Sonic, feeling more confident now that his attack had had an effect. "Looks like he could use some asprin. Now's our chance to give him more than just a headache!"

He always seemed to have a witty one-liner at the ready. Shadow shook his head in bewilderment; Perhaps it was all an act, a way to cope with the dire circumstances- but how did Sonic manage to be so… so upbeat all the time?!

For a moment, Shadow wished he could still laugh and joke that easily…

But he could fight, and that was what was really necessary.

Sonic drifted a little closer to the prototype, and paused for an instant to gather his strength. Glancing to his left, he observed Shadow give a barely perceptible nod; it was time for a synchronised attack.

Twin bolts of searing greenish-white energy lanced out from the rainbow hedgehog's eyes, while Shadow simultaneously launched a powered-up version of one of his normal attacks…

"Chaos Spear!!"

The beams hit the Biolizard at the same moment. For a fraction of a second it was illuminated from within; the thing screamed in pain and rage before whipping its neck around in a snakelike movement, getting the two hedgehogs into its line of fire.

The jaws snapped; a huge flaming shaft of energy emerged, too close and too big for either one of them to avoid completely. There was a crushing impact, both experienced an instant of burning pain…

For a second, everything went black…

* * * *

Shadow opened his eyes, saw stars- real and otherwise- then blinked hard to clear the fog from his brain. He could feel his body struggling to regenerate, and realised he had been lucky…if the Biolizard's wide-range attack hadn't been weaker than the focused beam it had used earlier…

Just behind him, Sonic groaned.

"Uhhn… that guy packs a punch." He held a hand to his head.

"Are… are you all right?" The silver hedgehog asked, rather unsteadily, as he sensed Sonic's energy level start to waver.

"Not sure…" Sonic's yellow eyes looked worried. Like Shadow, he was using a lot of energy to repair his injuries, and it was starting to take its' toll. "I don't know how much longer I can keep this up."

There was no time to rest, however, as a green glow appeared once again in the creature's cavernous mouth. The head shifted, aiming itself at Sonic.

Shadow barely had time to act as the Biolizard fired a narrow, intense beam of green power. An image flashed before his eyes for an instant: The flare of a laser pistol, the scream of agony-- Maria?! But it was him they had wanted, not her…

"MOVE!!"

Couldn't warp out. No time. Shadow swung his arm, connecting with Sonic's chest and propelling him backwards and out of the way-- THUD--, as the silver hedgehog got between him and the deadly beam…

"YAAARGH!!"

The ray impacted just below the patch of pale fur on his chest, and Shadow thought he would pass out from the agony… but he stubbornly clung to consciousness.

The beam stopped; the hedgehog realised that, by some miracle, he was still alive. Just.

He hurt too much to be dead.

"Thanks, pal…" Sonic breathed, realising that Shadow had probably just saved him again. The other hedgehog didn't seem to hear; he was too busy gasping for air. Wisps of smoke drifted between his fingers where his hand pressed against the wound. "You okay?" Sonic added.

Shadow forced his ruby eyes open about half way.

"I'm… fine…" he said through gritted teeth, even though he obviously wasn't. He was starting to heal, part of him willed his body to regenerate faster so the pain would stop; while another part bemoaned the fact that this would leave him desperately short of power.

Sonic looked over at the menacing Biolizard for a moment, then back towards the hedgehog that he was starting to think of as a friend.

"You'd better rest for a while. I'll take over," Sonic advised; Shadow had taken the full force of the beam, and his energy level was falling fast. He had to buy him enough time to recover...

In another situation, Shadow would have carried on fighting so as not to seem weak. Now, however, he could only nod gratefully, and watch Sonic speed off towards the prototype.

* * * *

The rainbow- coloured hedgehog evaded a lunge from the jaws of the monster, as he looked for an opening to attack. The maw slammed shut inches from his last position.

He realised it was getting more difficult to stay one step ahead of the creature. It wasn't just Shadow who was in trouble, because Sonic was losing power, slowing down…. and not only that.

You might think it was impossible to feel incredibly powerful yet exhausted at the same time- but Sonic did. He had gradually become aware of a burning pain throughout his entire body; the kind of feeling he got when he had pushed himself to the limit, or had run too fast for too long. As he had first suspected, he couldn't maintain his Hyper form for long. He was running out of time, and simply wearing out.

He needed -wanted- to change back into his normal form, and rest- that was what Sonic's body was telling him, and it was tempting. But he couldn't. Not yet… he had to hold on…

The skull of the Biolizard suddenly loomed up behind him!

"Yikes!"

The jaws were wide, ready to bite; but suddenly the bulky head snapped to one side as something hit it from below--

"Back off, creep!"

The Biolizard shook its head and glared at the source of its irritation: Shadow, who uncurled from his spin attack and hovered next to Sonic.

Sonic glanced at the silver hedgehog, raising an eyebrow.

"Stripes, you are starting to make me look bad!" The hedgehog then noticed something about the orange and grey lizard that tweaked his face into a grin. "Hey! See that wound on its belly?"

Shadow looked, and he too noticed the large purplish-red swelling marring the grey scales. Whether it was caused by one of their earlier attacks, or something else, there was no way to tell. But it was still an opportunity…

"Yes…" he replied. "Maybe we've found a weak spot."

Sonic nodded and assessed his condition. His energy was still diminishing, but he had enough left for a last attack. Shadow's power level was somewhat lower than Sonic's, because of the beating he had taken earlier.

"This could be our last chance," Sonic began, pointing towards the prototype. "So let's hit this overgrown newt with all we've got!"

The two hedgehogs rocketed towards the beast, aiming unerringly for the inflamed area on its underside. They both knew that they had to put everything into one final attack- a last, desperate attempt to defeat the creature. The fate of the world depended on it.

Sonic accelerated, his rainbow aura becoming a blinding veil of light as he forced himself to go faster. Time seemed to slow to a crawl; although he was moving at close to lightspeed, it seemed like an eternity.

Beside him, Shadow kept pace. He was also surrounded by a blaze of energy, the colour of flame and glowing with the same intensity. As he tried to extract every last spark of energy from already depleted reserves, a single thought played in his mind:

"This is for you, Maria…"

Impact.

* * * *

Chapter 3

Location: Outside ARK

The Biolizard emitted a choked cry as it was hit with incredible force. The scream merged with the shrieks of tearing metal and the ripping sounds as cables were torn from its sides.

A whole section of the Eclipse Cannon's huge tower broke away, tumbling through space- and the creature was suddenly in free-fall, detached from ARK and turning end over end as it began the slow plunge to Mobius.

From somewhere high above ARK, Sonic watched as the dying creature drifted away.

"I… I think we did it," he panted.

"He's finished," agreed Shadow, sounding exhausted yet immensely relieved.

"And not a moment too soon," Sonic replied. "I feel totally burned out."

The hedgehog sighed, allowing himself to relax for a moment… and almost immediately, his eyes flickered from amber to green; and the flashing colours of his fur hesitated in the blue- purple range. He shook his head hard, fighting it; he couldn't afford to change back now, not out here- even though he was wracked with pain from the effort of maintaining his Hyper form. It would be such a relief to get back on board ARK...

Shadow was probably thinking exactly the same thing, judging by his appearance. His chrome body had lost some of its reflective shine, and the tips of his quills had darkened almost to their original black.

Thank goodness Mobius and the people on board ARK were now safe.

But something wasn't right…

The red eyes shifted from their observation of the Biolizard to gaze at the planet itself.

It was so close… he hadn't noticed how close during the battle. It filled his whole field of vision. The hedgehog glanced at ARK, which was moving slowly but inexorably… the metal had a reddish glow here and there…

Atmospheric friction. Had the space colony already entered the atmosphere?

How long had they been fighting?

"Sonic… look…"

"Uh…?"

Sonic followed the other hedgehog's gaze; blinking hard, his eyes grudgingly altered from green to an unstable yellow. Then he saw what Shadow had seen, and he gasped.

"Oh no… we…we're too late. ARK is still falling towards Mobius!"

"We can't have gone through all that for nothing!" Shadow growled. "There must be a way to stop this."

Sonic frowned determinedly. He wasn't going to give up just yet!

"If only we could somehow… move ARK back into orbit…"

His eyes widened. Sonic and Shadow looked at each other, a sudden idea dawning; simultaneously, they exclaimed:

"Chaos Control!!"

Yes! It could work! When someone used Chaos Control, they could take with them anything they were physically touching- but the bigger the object, the more energy was needed to move it.

Energy… that was the problem.

"This is going to take a lot of power," Shadow cautioned, as the two hedgehogs sped towards the space colony. Their determination had given them new strength, or so it appeared- but they were really running on little more than willpower. Sonic had to concentrate simply to stay in his Hyper form; and although Shadow was trying not to show it, it was obvious from his energy level that he was even worse off.

"Leave it to me," Sonic advised him as they reached ARK's surface. "You should get out of here."

Shadow maintained his position at Sonic's side, shaking his head vehemently.

"Not a chance!"

Sonic shot him a glare, placing his hand on the metal surface of the colony. What the hell did Shadow think he was doing?!

"Don't be stupid, Shadow!" the hedgehog snapped. "You barely have enough energy to get yourself to safety, let alone ARK!"

"And you have?! Face it, neither of us can move ARK by ourselves. But if I help you, you might have enough power left to escape…"

Sonic's eyes went wide.

"But… what about you?" he gasped. Shadow had so little energy left… he wouldn't have a chance.

Shadow lowered his eyes, and they were filled with guilt and sadness.

"Don't worry about me," he said softly. "All this time, you've been doing the job I was designed for… while I tried to destroy the world I promised to protect." He looked up at Sonic, seeing him as an equal… no, more than that. Shadow was made to be perfect, while Sonic had not… yet Shadow was the one who had failed. He thought that if there really was such a thing as the Ultimate Life Form, then it was right in front of him.

"If one of us is going to survive, it should be you," the hedgehog concluded. "Besides- you know this is the only way."

Sonic sighed. He was right… there was no way he could move ARK by himself. Mobius' only chance was that Shadow helped him do it.

He didn't like the idea, not one little bit. But…

"Yeah, I guess it is…" Sonic admitted grudgingly.

Shadow nodded silently; and even he was a little surprised as a smile softened his usually severe expression.

Sonic was the only one who had seen him smile since the incident on ARK fifty years before…

"Then there's only one thing left to do," the red-striped hedgehog said, placing a hand on ARK's surface. "--Save the world!"

The pair concentrated, each straining to find the energy they needed, drawing on power they weren't sure they had. A sizzling green curtain of Chaos energy fell over the hemispherical satellite, and sensing the right moment, their gazes locked…

"CHAOS CONTROL!"

A brilliant explosion of green light eclipsed the stars. On Mobius, children pointed at the sky- "Mummy, see the fireworks!" - and above, space was once more cold and empty.

* * * *

On board ARK…

"Wh… what just happened?" Amy Rose, who had returned to the control room along with Tails, Knuckles and Rouge, shook her head in bewilderment.

"I don't know…" Tails replied, equally confused. There had been this blinding flash of light… and the violent shaking of the floor had suddenly died away. The young fox glanced at the status monitor; then his eyes widened.

"Somehow, ARK is back in its original orbit!"

Everyone followed suit, gazing at what the monitor showed. They saw the calm blue sphere of Planet Mobius; serene as ever and thankfully distant.

Amy felt a pang of worry-- where were Sonic and Shadow…?

She turned, sensing something behind her… and for a moment she thought she saw a tiny spark of green light in mid-air, which faded to nothing. Had it been her imagination? No-- there it was again, flickering weakly. Someone was trying to return, but it didn't seem like they were going to make it…

The light brightened, however, then imploded. A figure appeared and hit the floor with a dull thump; then lay there on its back, not moving.

"Sonic!!" Amy cried…

* * * *

The blue hedgehog was barely conscious. He felt himself start to shiver uncontrollably as his body went into shock… Power had come with a heavy price, and on top of that he had given everything he had in order to move ARK. Sonic had never felt so utterly exhausted in his life.

It hurt to move- even to breathe, and he felt like his heart was trying to hammer its' way out of his chest.

Sleep… he had to sleep…

The cold floor under him seemed to fade away… it was almost like floating in space; and he might have been, for all he cared. Sonic wasn't even sure he had made it back to ARK. It didn't matter that much anymore, because all he wanted to do was rest… unconsciousness beckoned, like an oasis in the desert…

As everything began to slip away, the hedgehog heard someone calling him from a great distance…

"Sonic!!"

Amy…?

Her voice moved him to try to stay awake a little longer, and he struggled to open his eyes- blackness encroached on his blurred vision, but he saw the pink hedgehog rushing to his side.

"Did… did it work?" Sonic whispered as he tried to sit up.

Amy knelt beside him, supporting the weakened hedgehog's head.

"Yes, we're safe… but are you all right?" She asked, concerned. Sonic's green eyes had lost much of their chaotic glow; Amy realised he must be completely drained of energy.

"Where's Shadow?" Rouge asked fearfully, stepping forward.

Unable to meet her gaze, Sonic looked down. His eyes fell on the bracelet he still wore on his left wrist, and he slowly shook his head.

There was a dejected hush as the truth dawned on the five animals: Shadow was gone.

Sonic let out a low moan, then he knew no more as a welcoming darkness enveloped him…

* * * *

"…It's finally over…" Shadow thought, as the last traces of silver faded from his quills. With his rapidly dimming vision he could see ARK in the distance. Then he looked down; and as Mobius' gravity began to pull him in, he realised the planet had never looked so beautiful…

The black hedgehog knew he was about to die…either from the energy drain, lack of oxygen or simply burning up in the atmosphere.

But he didn't care anymore, because his demise no longer mattered. Mobius was out of danger; so his purpose was fulfilled.

"I kept my promise, Maria…" Shadow was suddenly filled with a strange, new emotion… a feeling of completeness that he had never experienced before. Again, his face involuntarily formed a smile. An unfamiliar feeling; could he actually be… happy?

He tried to enjoy it in the few moments he had left.

Then the doubts came… was he truly ready to embrace death? Maria had asked him to protect the planet, and he had…

This was what she wanted.

Wasn't it?

Was there anything more he could do?

But even if there was, it was too late now. Far too late.

The hedgehog continued to fall towards Mobius, dwindling with distance…

Moments later, somewhere in the blue planet's upper atmosphere, a bright flash of light lit the sky. Then there was nothing, nothing at all.

* * * *

Epilogue

Later that night, back at the Emerald Hill Zone

After using the supply ship to return to Mobius, the Freedom Fighters had the Kintobor Computer launch an extensive search for Shadow. No trace of the black hedgehog was found; Robotnik was also missing, and it was assumed that he had left ARK in one of its' escape pods.

Somewhere in the Emerald Hill Zone, Knuckles was beginning the long trek back to the Emerald Coast.

"It's time I got back to my island, and started tracking down those emeralds," he sighed wearily, dreading the thought of another prolonged search. The red echidna glanced over his shoulder at the girl behind him. "I suppose you'll be going back to treasure hunting."

Rouge looked at him, smiling mysteriously.

"Not exactly," the bat replied, eyes gleaming. "I think I'll be working on another little… project from now on."

"Then I guess I'll see you around," Knuckles smirked back, a little nervously.

"I 'guess' you will!" Rouge unfurled her wings, and took off into the night air. It was a clear night, and the moon- what was left of it- was almost full.

The stars glowed brightly in the dark sky. In the Control Tower, Sonic the hedgehog stared out of an open window, his gaze fixed on those distant points of light.

Although exhausted in mind and body, he was finding it impossible to sleep- even though he desperately wanted to. There were several things keeping him awake- not least of which was an old, familiar fear that had been rekindled. He had a new demon now, and its name was Hyper Sonic…

'…the ring can only be used once…'

This time, he was able to recall the entire battle, and had been in control. Next time would be different. And on top of that, Porker had said that the temporary weakness he was experiencing was a normal side effect of the transformation…

But that wasn't what was on Sonic's mind right now.

"I should've stopped him…" the blue hedgehog sighed, as his gaze shifted to take in the fragmented moon.

He should have attempted to transport ARK by himself. He shouldn't have let Shadow sacrifice himself like that!

"It's my fault," Sonic thought. "There must have been a way to save him. I've done it again. It's my fault, it should've been me!!"

Sonic knew that feeling of guilt only too well…

"Sonic?" said a voice behind him. He looked round briefly, to see Amy Rose enter his room.

Amy observed the blue hedgehog staring forlornly into the darkness, and frowned. Sonic was recovering, his eyes were returning to their usual brilliant green- he would be back to normal in a few days, but was still in no condition to be on his feet. Judging by the way his left hand was gripping the window frame for support, she suspected he could barely stand.

"Shouldn't you be taking it easy? You're still drained of energy," she gently advised him.

"Amy? I couldn't sleep. I was thinking about Shadow…" Sonic replied.

The pink hedgehog joined him by the window.

"Was he really the Ultimate Life Form?" she wondered. Sonic shook his head and sighed, his eyes never leaving the moon's imperfect sphere.

"I don't know… but the important thing is, he was a hero. And that's something I'll never forget." The hedgehog looked down, and covered the ring Shadow had given him with his hand. Then his head lifted, eyes flashing.

No, he wouldn't forget. He would wear the control ring as a reminder of the black hedgehog's sacrifice; and would make sure it had not been in vain. Amy had told him of Shadow's vow to keep Mobius safe.

Sonic knew it was up to him now.

He would protect the people of his planet, and he would give them the chance to be happy.

The blue hedgehog stared up at the moon, and the glowing point beside it that was the space colony ARK. For a moment, he pictured Shadow and Maria up there, together at last…

"I promise…" Sonic whispered.

~ The End…~

* * * *

Authors note- Well, I've finally finished this little epic. You'll notice I changed a few things… OK, a lot of things, from the game. For example I missed out some levels, and sort of merged the Cannon's Core and the Control Room into one place, for reasons of convenience… The President isn't in this fic because I didn't really like that idea in the game, and on top of that he doesn't fit too well into the STC universe. So he had to go. Gerald & Maria's surname is Kintobor, not Robotnik- again to fit in with the comic.

I've added a 'new' character, Shade Phoenix- and if anyone hasn't figured out his true identity yet, shame on you! I dropped enough hints, didn't I?!

As for Sonic & Shadow… well, that ability to sense Chaos energy is explained in a fanfic I wrote a very long time ago, I know it isn't in the game, but it seems to work. Also, as far as I'm concerned, those rocket boots Shadow has are just for show, and are nothing to do with his ability to skate… he uses Chaos energy for that. Shadow IS as fast as Sonic, and he doesn't need any help from some fancy trainers! So there!

And yes, I know Maria didn't actually get shot in the game. That's a bit of, er, artistic license on my part. Heh heh…

Speaking of which, why did I use Hyper instead of Super Sonic? My fault again- because, silly me, I went and separated Sonic & Super Sonic in an earlier fan comic. Oops. I re-designed Hyper Sonic, too… after all, Super Sonic looked different in Sonic 2 than in STC, didn't he?

Finally… hands up who cried in the end?! Heh. Don't worry, Shadow will return…

Special thanks go to Craig Bayfield, who suggested Shade Phoenix's new name… (it was originally Shadow Phoenix- until SA2 came out, that is…) And to Latifah 27, for colouring my next fan comic, and letting me do an AU of her 'May & December' fic. Now I just gotta write it… :)

Thalia 'RockChick'

ThaliaRockChick@aol.com

http://www.crosswinds.net/~stc2/