Author's note: Things are drawing to an end and this is the final chapter. Hope you've enjoyed the story! I got a good learning experience writing it for sure. Though I marvel at people who manage to write 200k+ word stories, I have no idea how they do it lol. For me, this story feels a bit short and rushed, but I hope I can learn to do better for the next one, whenever I can think of an idea to use lol.
Rouge jumped with a gasp at the unexpected sudden explosion.
"Shadow?" she called frantically into her wrist gadget. No response. Had he failed, was he…? She couldn't believe it. She left her spot by the roof, flying straight towards the control boards of the base. She had memorized the layout and she'd get there in no time. With Eggman elsewhere, she wasn't concerned with being discovered any more. This was more important by far. Hopefully Shadow had taken out the whole defence system, as well, so that she could at least get there safely.
A good distance away, Sonic and Shadow were both standing still, eyeing Eggman as he glared at the duo. Sonic had managed to make out a faint noise that sounded suspiciously like an explosion, but he had no reason to worry. Probably Rouge working on the base, right? There had been lots of noises going on at all times anyway, he assumed.
Shadow was more concerned, but saw no reason to render the blue hedgehog incapable of continuing by bringing up his worries and risk Sonic breaking down completely. Better he kept fighting for now. They could deal with their losses later. Chaos knew Sonic would be heartbroken… Shadow tried for a mask of indifference over his features, arms crossed and ears held back in barely controlled aggression.
"This is as far as you'll go. This madness ends here!" Eggman growled at them, finger very slowly going lower, lower… Millimetres away from the button that would end it all.
Would they be able to stop him on time? Sonic doubted it. He was fast, but Eggman needed only the slightest split second to press the button. Even he wouldn't be fast enough to tackle him to the ground before he touched it…
Everything seemed to be going in slow motion, as if time stood still. The button remained untouched, but if Eggman decided to press it now... Could they stall him long enough to distract him? Give them enough time...?
"Shadow?" Sonic instead whispered fiercely, eyes not leaving Eggman's face. He kept his voice low, the name little more than a breath on his lips.
Shadow looked at him, but didn't reply. As far as he knew, Sonic still couldn't hear so there was no point in wasting his breath saying something back. Whatever Sonic wanted to say, he could say even if he couldn't hear it himself.
"Any ideas?" Sonic continued, finally turning his gaze back to the other, if only for a split second. Looking for re-assurance. Confidence. Anything.
Pursing his lips, Shadow glared back. Slowly, his arm rose, a last ditch effort that he didn't really expect would work. Unexpectedly, Eggman interrupted him before Sonic could sense even the slightest pull of Chaos energy moving through the air.
"Ah ah ah. You don't want that, dearest Shadow…" he all but purred and noted with satisfaction that Shadow indeed heeded his call, arm lowering again even as he bristled in righteous anger. Eggman had seen through that, too.
"Still!" the doctor continued "I suppose you have a point. There's no point in stalling this any further, is there? If I'm going down… I'm taking them with me!"
Too late. Too fast.
With a glee and with madness shining from his every feature, he finally pressed down his finger, straight into the cursed button. With twin shouts, Sonic and Shadow both threw themselves towards him to stop him.
Sonic reached Eggman first, despite his fatigue, adrenaline once more pumping through his veins, painfully twisting the doctor's arm away even as Shadow tackled his chest, sending all three of them crashing to the ground. Even so, it was already too late. The button had been pressed. They couldn't do anything but look towards the metal lid-covered hole some distance off as Eggman laughed cruelly at them, even in his undignified position on the ground. Any second now, the lid would be removed and the deadly missile would take off… It didn't matter than he had been caught, the deed was done no matter what would happen to him now.
"Shadow?" Rouge called hesitantly as she climbed into the control room through a small window on the far side. She expected carnage, broken mechanics, blood… pieces…
…And as a result got very, very surprised when she was met not with the bloody splattered remains of her dark-furred comrade among broken litter, but instead a fully intact room, tangled wires all over the floor like a massive pit of snakes and an equally surprised – if for different reasons – young fox blinking up at her sudden entry.
The soldier glanced down, looking for an opening between the trees. Rouge had given them the co-ordinates and he knew he was still some way off, but he couldn't help himself. Time was of extreme importance, if their intelligence was correct. He only wished they'd gotten the okay to go ahead earlier. From what he understood, things were quite a tangle down there. The informant had insisted that they would handle things themselves, but personally he wished they'd been sent there at the first suspicion of activity. Time would tell if the right decision had been made...
He jumped in surprise in his seat when he saw an explosion some distance off. Was that it?
Calling for his comrades over the intercom, they began to prepare to land as soon as they reached their final destination.
"What… where…" the bat uncharacteristically stuttered, landing beside Tails. "Where's Shadow? Is everything okay here?"
"Oh. Well, yes. It appears everything has been sorted correctly here. I… I asked Shadow to help Sonic. Where are they?"
Tails stood, wiping his hands on his knees and stretching carefully. Relief at his success did not begin to describe how he was currently feeling, but he also knew it was far too early to celebrate. He had no idea what Eggman was up to, or in what condition Sonic currently was in. He just hoped that Shadow had reached him on time and helped him with whatever he was doing. Since Rouge appeared surprised as opposed to terrified or exhausted, he hoped that was a good sign. He wasn't really that amazed to see her here, since he already knew Shadow was nearby. Still, his heart was still beating faster than usual and his breath a little quicker.
"Last I heard, in the underground tunnel, but I expect they've gotten out of there since then. I just hope they stopped him on time…" the bat trailed off, looking up at the wall. The pressure was getting to her too, even if she didn't want to admit it.
"Look, we have to help them. I've disabled the missiles – I think – but who knows what else Eggman has up his sleeve. You never know what to expect with him. Do you know where they are?"
Tails wasn't used to taking the command, in particular not around people twice his age, but with the adrenaline still coursing through his veins, he found himself almost naturally taking control of the situation. It was, even if he had never thought of it that way, a role he had come to assume naturally around Sonic. The hyperactive hedgehog needed some form of stability to keep him in working order, and that's what Tails had unintentionally, but confidently, provided him with. A brain to his brawn, if you will, a role that fit him well even if he assumed it mostly at a subconscious level.
Rouge almost couldn't help a smile as she listened to the assertive young fox. His blue eyes shone with determination and a type of inner strength she couldn't help but admire. She suspected with eyes like those, he'd grow up to quite the ladykiller one day, too… This was no time for such thoughts, though. Instead, she nodded and motioned for him.
"I'll show you the way. We'll fly there"
"Just one second" Tails eyes shone with sudden inspiration and he clasped his hands together, now standing by the same window Rouge had entered through. His eyes roamed over the area beneath them, in particular taking in a few prototypes, robots and mechas, standing in a silent line.
"I have an idea…"
All three of them held their breath for what felt like an eternity. Shadow had gotten off Eggman's chest, but the trio was still standing close together, tense and expectant. Three pairs of eyes were focused on the missile launching area. Nothing had happened however and eventually, Sonic turned to Eggman, one blue eye ridge raised.
"So… What's supposed to happen, exactly?"
Eggman, on his part, now looked not only angry, but also rather worried. Something was clearly wrong. The missile should have fired by now! And as if that wasn't enough, he was way too close for his comfort to the spiked duo. He knew he could trust Sonic to not badly hurt him (he hoped, anyway) but who knew what Shadow was capable of. Clearing his throat, he considered if he'd be able to jump to his pod and grab his laser-based little weapon toy. He had left it behind when he threw himself at the controls...
All three turned their eyes up when they heard the flutter of a helicopter above. Not just one, actually, but several. Military vehicles were coming in over them. GUN? Their timing wasn't too bad, for once.
Shadow, however, quickly turned his attention to Sonic instead. He had noted that the hedgehog had looked up when they heard the noise. Not as quickly as him and the doctor, granted, but still…
"Sonic, can you…" he began, but didn't have time to finish the sentence as Eggman suddenly took off at a surprisingly alert sprint. The pod was nearby and he needed only to take a few steps to get there. If he was just quick enough…
Sonic had turned his head to Shadow upon hearing his name, answering Shadow's question right there, through that action alone… he couldn't resist a grin on his features.
"It's coming back!" he admitted. He didn't mention that his hearing was still far from normal – at this point he was grateful that he could hear anything at all. Not wasting time, he leaped after the doctor who was too intent on his task to pay the hedgehogs any attention.
Unfortunately, with the unintentional delay caused by Shadow's question, his speed was not quite enough this time, not when Eggman had such a short distance to go and he hadn't expected him to take off like that… Sonic stopped, shoes making a faint screech as he suddenly found the weapon aimed straight at this face.
Before he'd even considered his next option, however, he saw the doctor falter and take a step back, features suddenly a shade paler and looking even less confident than before. His arm unceremoniously lowered again, knowing this was a battle he wouldn't win. Sonic snuck a glance behind him, and laughed with joy.
Indeed, the grinning fox was approaching them, flanked by Rouge a-wing. Tails was sitting in… a robot? A mecha, to be more exact. Go figure the fox would have found some piece of machinery to work with, even here…
Shadow let out a sign of relief of his own. Tails was okay. Good. Not that he considered the fox a friend as such, but he wouldn't have wanted to be the one facing Sonic's wrath upon hearing about the fox's demise, at any rate. He knew Sonic saw Tails as his little brother and he also knew that if someone dared hurt him, Sonic would see red.
"You?!" Eggman cried out. "And what are you doing with MY mecha?!"
Tails waved happily at the hedgehogs, not bothering to reply to the doctor. Instead, he raised one of the arms of the mecha, straight at Eggman's face. The red laser aim had already been on and ready, and was now aimed solidly at the doctor's chest.
"Give it up. You know this 'bot is quicker than your hand!"
Eggman's hesitation was enough, and but a split second later he found himself not only with his own mecha's arm – courtesy of a certain fox – aimed straight at him, but the gun had been knocked out of his hand by Sonic while Shadow was showing every sign of being ready to let go of one of his infamous Chaos spears at any second. This time, Eggman had no leverage. At all.
Huffing, the doctor crossed his arms. Naturally, at that exact moment GUN finally arrived at the scene as well, a throng of soldiers shouting for him to raise his arms above his head instead. It looked like he was, once again, being taken to their quarters. It wasn't the first time and truthfully, he had no fear at the prospect as such – he knew he would be able to break out soon enough – but this base was, without question, done for. All that work for nothing… At least he got a good – if unintentional – hit on that blue pest. Always something that Sonic was deaf now. Perhaps his next base could be inside a cave, a dark place, somewhere someone without working ears would be at a severe disadvantage…
Sonic figured this was as good a chance as any as he watched the soldiers pour in, and as Tails approached them as well, he stole the opportunity to look straight at his nemesis.
"Oh, and also, Eggman. Just so you know, my hearing's back again!"
Eggman didn't dignify him with a reply.
After Eggman's capture, mostly handled by GUN with the assistance of Shadow and Rouge, Sonic and Tails had finally been re-united. Sonic had been slightly hesitant at first, dreading the young fox's rightful anger at his previous behaviour, but had been pleasantly surprised as Tails had seemed nothing but genuinely happy. They had used the time together in the helicopter, taking them back to the science centre, to catch up and piece together just exactly had happened in the last day. It was strange to think that so much had happened in only about 24 hours.
Tails had, naturally, been ecstatic to hear that Sonic was able to hear again, even though it was still fairly evident that his hearing wasn't quite restored – he had to strain to listen and still had trouble making out individual words, unless you spoke very clearly and kept eye contact with him. As soon as they got back, the plan was to take Sonic to the hospital to have him checked out. This time, the stubborn hedgehog hadn't disagreed with Tails' judgment, at least.
"Did you figure out where that explosion came from, anyway?" Sonic asked, his (still slightly loud) voice curious and playful. He finally sounded like himself again, Tails thought.
"I… yes, we did. Rouge checked it out while I did the adjustments to Eggman's mecha, right before we went to get you guys. Apparently he had another Egg Mantis in the base. I guess it really was a prototype because it just kind of… exploded. Whatever he was doing with those particular robots, it wasn't working…"
Sonic shook his head in amusement at that and Tails couldn't help but giggle either. Leaning back into their seats, they anticipated the moment they'd be back to civilization. Sonic was staying cheerful, but it was pretty evident by now that he'd taken quite a beating. The last day had been incredibly intense for him, worse than usual, especially with his lack of food and rest.
Tails quieted down as well, thinking of his beloved plane. He could probably get it back into working order, but he wasn't sure how he'd even get it out of the jungle. And that was only provided it hadn't been found by someone, or gnawed at by ferals, or swept away by a sudden flood… He sighed, then shook his head. At least his big brother was okay. That was, after all, what was most important.
They were greeted with great enthusiasm once the helicopter had dropped them off at the Centre. The duo's sudden absence had been noted with concern, and they had wondered what had happened with them – especially considering Tails' had left all their gadgets behind… minus the plane, of course. A few had debated that perhaps Eggman was up to his tricks again which had raised some commotion, but in the end they had been blissfully ignorant of all that had gone on around them. Still, things had been rather worrying. Especially as Shadow and Rouge had left so early on, on the very first day, after they had been stationed to maintain security.
It was only a select few that were later informed that it had originally been Rouge who had noticed strange lights while out for an evening flight during a break. She had left her position to break into the base, spying for GUN as well as informing Shadow of Eggman's latest whereabouts and his plans. Of course, that had been when Sonic and Tails had run into the doctor as well, making things a whole lot more complicated.
Once the helicopters had landed, Sonic and Tails had been greeted with surprise as well as joy by everyone currently residing in the facility, and it wasn't long until they were found in the cafeteria, Sonic stuffing his face with much-needed food as he enthusiastically told the crowd of their recent adventure. Well accustomed to being in the spotlight, he had no problems talking about everything they had been through, though he left out the bit about losing his hearing (some people did wonder at the odd tone of his voice and apparent lack of attention to those asking questions, but were too enthralled to comment about it) and shortened down the telling of his capture and time of prisoner considerably. They didn't need to hear that. A lot more focus was put into Tails' heroic work, risking his life for everyone's safety and using his skills to disarm the missiles. The technologically interested crowd was especially well suited for listening to those bits of the story, many commenting on his evident knowledge of such advanced set-ups.
The young fox couldn't help but blush at the crowd's unmistakable appreciation for his work. He wasn't nearly as used to being in the spotlight as Sonic was and wasn't quite sure how to react to it. When he had been in the middle of it all, he hadn't really considered his role. He just did what had to be done, that was all.
Sonic had just grinned at his modesty before finally coming to the end of their tale, describing Tails marching up in one of Eggman's mechas and threatening him in great detail.
"He was so badass! Of course, he's learnt from the best, so what can you expect…"
It had been about a month. Sonic and Tails were back in their workshop at the ruins. At the moment, Tails was busily working on the Tornado. He had successfully managed to get most of it back from Adabat. The price had been pretty steep, though. Rouge had agreed to make GUN help him… eventually. In return, he had to give her his one Chaos emerald. He was still grumbling over that, but Sonic had assured him that they could get it back any time. Or, failing that, take Shadow's when he wasn't looking. Not a good idea at all to attempt, as far as Tails was concerned, but he hadn't been in a mood to really care at the time, upset but at least pleased about the thought of getting his beloved plane back.
Sonic was currently, once more, perched in his favourite tree. He rubbed a blue ear as he watched Tails' below. His hearing was almost fully returned, though there were still moments when it wasn't quite as good as it had been before the accident. Fortunately those times were slowing becoming less common, though. The doctor had thought his hearing would probably be coming back fully with time. Even so, he had been put on strict order to take it easy and let his damaged body recover fully and at its own pace. That included staying away from loud noises of all kinds. The doctor had stressed this especially, though it had been in an exasperated kind of way – he was familiar with Sonic's lifestyle. This particular doctor had had the (mis)fortune of having treated Sonic before and knew that asking the hedgehog to stay out of trouble was about as useful as telling someone else to try to 'not breathe so often'.
"Sonic?" Tails called up, turning to his companion. "It's your turn, remember?"
"What's that, Tails?" Sonic called down below, not really paying the fox much attention, more in the mood for a quick nap than anything else.
"It's your time to go to the city and get us food. Don't tell me you forgot again?"
Ugh. Sonic really did not enjoy shopping. It wasn't the store itself. It wasn't even the crowd bound to stalking him through the aisles. No, what really got him was the lines. Endless waiting lines. Stretching for what felt like miles and miles and miles and all you could do was just stand there and wait and wait…
Eyes flashing with sudden inspiration, he got a sudden idea.
"What, Tails? I can't hear you… It's coming back again…"
"Sonic! I'm not falling for that! I heard the doctor said, I was there too you know!"
Tails truly wasn't fooled, he had heard the doctor's instructions as well as Sonic had (probably heard them better than Sonic did, to be truthful). The hedgehog could hear pretty well now, even if he was still recovering and had his moments, his hearing never truly and fully disappeared any more for any length of time.
Ignoring that little fact, Sonic was clearly attempting to use the "Sorry, I'm deaf and can't help you"-card any way. It was not going to fly with Tails, however.
Still, as he tried to tell Sonic this, he was interrupted.
"This is just terrible! What will I do? I better go and see that doctor again and get his advice!"
Sonic was yelling unnecessarily loud, in spite of himself doing a pretty poor imitation of… well, himself, in his previous deaf state. Very dramatically, of course. Flashing his friend a intense saddened gaze, ears drooping and one fist raised in mock distress, he couldn't quite conceal the following grin as he jumped down from the branch and took off. In the opposite direction of the city. Naturally.
Sighing, Tails shook his head. Fine. This happened half the time it was Sonic's turn, anyway, so he wasn't that shocked. Honestly, he didn't mind getting the groceries too much, since he usually used his trips to pick up new parts for his gadgets anyway. Still, it had always seemed more fair that they try to split the household chores…
Even so, Tails was happy that Sonic was able to joke about his previous condition. He had given them all a really bad scare, that was for certain, but it looked like things would go back to normal soon, at least.
Dusting his hands off his knees he stood up next to the plane, now mostly looking like its old self again. He smiled in the direction the hedgehog had gone, not bothering to call after him, instead speaking to himself, feeling quite content.
"See you tonight, Sonic. I'm glad you're okay again!"