A/N: This is a request from ultimateCCC. Considering the subject is something we've never done before, we're hoping this turns out well.
Pen: It will not.
Sword: You should at least try.
Pen: And why is that?
Sword: Because…Uh….All characters and related material belong to Sega. Me and Pen belong to the author. That's all!
Pen: See? You cannot think of a good reason. Let us just get this disaster train moving.
Sword: Ooo, a train? All aboard! Choo, choo!
The Past Held Hostage
Before Chaos appeared, Knuckles had believed his history was lost to the realms of time. Few memoirs on his ancestry survived, mostly inscriptions on rock walls around Angel Island. Yet he had always hoped he might one day find more. Being the last of a race tends to have that effect.
So when Tikal had emerged from the Master Emerald, shocking all the Freedom Fighters, Knuckles had thought his chance to learn about his people had arrived. But as quickly as she had come, Tikal had left, taking that knowledge with her. Which is why Knuckles had tried in vain to coax her out of the large, glowing gem hovering in its stone altar in the many months since. He had had no luck so far.
Several days ago, he had the idea to bring the Chaos Emeralds to the altar. After all, everyone's understanding of the gems' interactions was tenuous at best. Perhaps they could affect the Master Emerald and bring Tikal back.
Which is why the crimson guardian had gathered together all the Chaos Emeralds and splayed them out in front of that altar that morning. He stood back, near the altar stairs, and waited. Nothing happened. All the emeralds lied there, catching the sunlight.
Knuckles scratched his head. Should he say something? He cleared his throat. "Tikal, ancestor of the last tribe," he said, scrunching his face up at how ridiculous he sounded, "please come out!"
Again, nothing happened. Knuckles raised his hands. "Tikal, if you can hear me, come out!" Silence. "Open sesame?" Knuckles tried. "Tikal, please. I wish to learn about my race." He waited. And waited. Eventually, Knuckles threw up his hands. "Great," he muttered. He dragged himself over to the steps and sat down in a slump. He buried his head in his arms and sighed. "Should've figured it wouldn't be that easy."
Yet he heard a piercing shrill behind him accompanying an overwhelming flash. He turned and was spellbound by a dark figure materializing from the Master Emerald. The featureless figure began to take a womanly shape, growing dreadlocks like his and creating a dress that whipped about in the pure white light. When the spectacle died down, there was an orange echidna, dressed in a diamond-patterned tribal dress. Her head and neck were adorned with golden bands, encrusted with viridian jewels. She floated to the ground, gently landing and opening her matching viridian eyes.
"Tikal!" Knuckles said, scrambling to his feet.
She smiled. "Hello, Last Guardian," she said. "I have heard your plea and been permitted to come to you. What would you like to know?"
Knuckles' mind went blank. He racked it, searching for a specific question. He had thought of so many during his emerald gathering, but now, he could not recall a single one. So he settled on, "Please, tell me everything about your tribe. About our people."
She nodded and started to follow him toward his shack at the base of the altar. But there was a heavy, whirring noise that approached them rapidly. Knuckles glanced into the sky. His eyes widened as a swarm of robots of all makes and models converged on their position, falling from a large carrier above. Some landed with a heavy whump! as others stayed in the air, flapping their steely wings.
In the center, laughing darkly, was Robotnik. He was comfortably perched in his round Eggmobile. He leered from over the console controls, his toothy smile and beady red eyes unnerving. "I must thank you, Knuckles," he said.
Knuckles raised his spiked fists, turning every which way. They were trapped. The circle of robots tightened. Each bore the symbol of Robotnik's poorly drawn face. "Why's that?" Knuckles asked, putting Tikal behind him.
"Because you have gathered all the Chaos Emeralds for me," Robotnik said. He swept his arm at several robots that carried the gems in their arms. "In fact, you've done half my work for me. You released the one who knows the most about the emeralds' power as well."
He growled. "You won't get your hands on her, Robotnik," he said.
"I'll either have her or your precious Master Emerald," Robotnik said. "Which will it be?"
Knuckles punched a nearby swatbot. "Neither!" He turned to Tikal. "Run! I'll clear you a path!" Several swatbots pounced on her. Knuckles hefted up a nearby foe. He batted away the enemies in midair. "Go! Now!"
Tikal nodded and sprinted toward the nearby forest. A detachment of Robotnik's drones gave chase. Knuckles leapt into the air and landed ahead of them. "You'll have to get through me first," he said, hitting his gloves together.
One rushed Knuckles. He swung hard, jamming his fist through its torso. Another reached for him. He latched onto its head. Twisting hard, he ripped its head off. Then he threw the head at an oncoming enemy. But for every robot he took down, three more appeared.
Several of the swatbots began firing on him. Knuckles burrowed into the ground. He tunneled his way underneath the action. Overhead, Robotnik was shouting orders. "Find him, you buckets of bolts! He's beneath you!"
When Knuckles believed he had dug far enough, he burst to the surface. He knocked aside a dozen robots. Then he clobbered many more. Side, front, back. He kicked one while swinging at another. His spiked gloves easily tore through the chassis of each. The pile of broken robots grew higher and higher. Yet there was no end to them.
"Help!" Knuckles paused and looked up. He saw Tikal, struggling in a flying robot's grasp. "The Master Emerald!" she said, directing his attention to the large gem. Robotnik had attached the emerald to his craft by a winch and was steadily hauling it up.
Knuckles abandoned the fight and flew for the Master Emerald. He sliced through the winch, dropping the emerald. He hoped and prayed that it would not shatter. Thankfully, it slipped safely into its perch on the altar.
He held onto the severed winch. Knuckles slowly climbed it. When he reached the Eggmobile's exterior, he punched a hole into it. The craft shuddered, threatening to drop as Robotnik cursed him. "Very well then, echidna. I'll just have to settle with what I can." He turned to the robot carrying Tikal and gestured to the carrier. "Take her away."
"No!" Knuckles leapt for Tikal. But one of the other flying drones carrying the Chaos Emeralds rammed him. Knuckles fell back down to his island.
"Don't worry, Knuckles," Robotnik said as he rose unsteadily into the air. "I'll be back for your Master Emerald soon enough." He disappeared into the shadow of the carrier above.
Hopping up, Knuckles searched for any remaining enemies. He dispatched a few straggling swatbots easily. But that was little comfort against Tikal's kidnapping
He opened his hand and found himself clutching the green Chaos Emerald. Knuckles smiled. The fight had not been a total loss after all. He turned to the carrier above. As much as he hated to admit it, with Robotnik possessing the majority of the emeralds and an army, he was going to need help. He would also need speed to save Tikal.
Knuckles rushed to his shack and activated the large communication screen Tails had installed. He searched through the computer's directory for Tails' number and dialed it. Within a few moments, the young fox's face appeared on screen.
"Knuckles?" Tails asked. "What can I do for you?"
"I got a problem," he said. He held up the Chaos Emerald. "Is Sonic there?"
Tails shook his head. "Sorry. Sonic and most of the others left for a mission a few days ago."
"Then who is there?" Knuckles asked.
"Shadow, Mina, and myself," Tails said.
"Put Shadow on."
If there was one thing that Shadow hated, it was downtime. He preferred to be active, up, and about accomplishing something. Having a goal or task kept him preoccupied. It allowed him to focus his talents on something useful.
Not that he became like Sonic was during a lull in the action. The blue hedgehog could hardly sit still for five minutes. No, Shadow simply became on edge and cranky. He felt like waiting around was wasting time. He knew that Knothole needed to be defended, but he would rather be out searching for Robotnik or being on a mission.
The biggest part of the problem was that whenever he had any free time, his thoughts turned to Maria, always ending with his failure to save her on the ARK. He had done very well in throwing himself into fighting Robotnik or aiding others when he chose to. But the more he stalled in thinking about Maria, the stronger her memory haunted him each time. His mind's dam was brimming to capacity and he feared to open the gate.
So he paced up and down his assigned hut, searching for anything to occupy himself with. He had already patrolled town three times. No disturbances to speak of. He very well could not step foot outside of the village either. Who knew when Robotnik might launch a surprise attack?
He wished there was something to do. As if an answer to his prayers, Tails flung open the door of his hut. "Shadow! Come quick!" Immediately, the black hedgehog followed, his spirits lifted in the hope of a task.
When they arrived at Tails' hut, he saw a large screen displaying Knuckles. "Finally!" Knuckles said.
"What's going on?" Shadow asked.
"Robotnik just took the Chaos Emeralds and Tikal to his carrier!" Knuckles said. "I need your help to get her and the emeralds back." His voice strained on the last sentence and he glanced elsewhere. There was a large welt forming on his chest.
"Hold on. Tikal?" Tails asked. Tikal? The name sounded familiar to Shadow. Perhaps one of the others had mentioned the person at some point.
"No time to explain," Knuckles said. "So, how about it?" Shadow did not answer right away. He was too busy determining the best way to reach Robotnik's carrier. "I managed to snag this," the echidna added, holding up the green Chaos Emerald.
"That's our way in," Shadow said. "Meet me in the Mystic Ruins."
Knuckles nodded and the feed cut out. Swiveling around, Tails asked, "You want my help too?"
"No. Knothole can't spare anyone else. Stay here and warn us if Robotnik sends his forces this way."
"Got it," Tails said.
With that, Shadow raced off toward the Mystic Ruins. It was not long before he found the echidna, pacing amongst decrepit ruins of an ancient palace. Shadow skidded to a halt before him and held out his hand. Knuckles handed over the Chaos Emerald. Then Shadow held the emerald aloft and grabbed onto Knuckles' arm. "Chaos Control!" The world disappeared before them in a blinding flash of light. In moments, they were on Angel Island, at the altar where the Master Emerald twirled slowly.
"Which way did he go?" Shadow asked. Knuckles pointed off in the distance. Shadow squinted his eyes and did see a dark mass on the horizon. Once more, he tapped into the emerald's power and Angel Island dissolved into white nothingness. Then they were atop the Egg Carrier, the wind trying hard to blow them away.
The fleet of smaller ships around them took no notice of the two new passengers. Shadow and Knuckles quickly found a hatch, opened it, and dropped into the bowels of the carrier. They stood back to back, circling and searching for any guards. The hall they had landed in was clear of enemies.
"Now, who is Tikal?" Shadow asked.
"She's an echidna, like me. Green eyes, jewelry, white and faded green dress," Knuckles said, his description terse like Shadow appreciated.
The name clicked in Shadow's mind. He had heard about the girl before. Sonic or Tails had talked about her. "The survivor of the last echidna tribe, right?"
"Right," Knuckles said. "Her entire tribe was wiped out before her. She sacrificed herself to stop the destruction." His words rang deep within Shadow, reminding him of Maria's sacrifice for him. "But I brought her back and now this happens. I should've gathered the emeralds in a safer place. Stupid!" He knocked on his head.
"Yes, you are," Shadow said, earning a glare. "There will be time to berate you later. Let's hurry." They rushed down one hall, then another. Every area looked the same: steel walls with buzzing lights embedded in the ceiling and floor.
"Do you know where you're going?" Knuckles asked after several minutes.
"Toward the bridge," Shadow said. "Robotnik will want to keep Tikal and the emeralds nearby. No doubt he already knows we have one."
"Right you are," Robotnik said, his voice echoing through the halls. Traps doors slid away from the walls on either side. "I'll just be taking that emerald from your corpses."
The turrets fired their ruby lasers in the intruders' direction. Knuckles ducked, narrowly avoiding the laser fire. One stray shot managed to singe his tail. He yelped and clobbered the turret. He ripped it off and wielded it as a club. He smashed several other turrets to pieces.
Shadow had little trouble dodging the turrets. He sped at them with ferocity. When he didn't kick them, he blasted the turrets with Chaos energy. In the blink of an eye, turret after turret fell. Inch by inch, they took down the defenses. Within a minute's time, all the turrets were broken.
Tossing aside his makeshift club, Knuckles pounded his fists. "That the best you got?"
"Oh, no," Robotnik said, chuckling. "That was a mere warm-up."
Suddenly, dozens of robots were filling the hallway behind them. Shadow growled at Knuckles and the pair ran. The robots fired at them. Every now and again, Shadow returned their gunfire with Chaos spears. But members of the swarm were replaced too fast for any attack to make a dent.
"We should split up," Knuckles said. "Cover more ground faster. At least one of us could make it to the bridge!"
They separated at a fork, Shadow veering to the left. He used his emerald to Chaos Control into a room nearby. He quickly scanned it, found nothing of interest, and teleported to the next area. Over and over, he searched the rooms, unable to locate the other emeralds or Robotnik's prisoner.
On the upside, Shadow was able to put substantial distance between him and his robot pursuers. By the time he arrived at the bridge of the carrier, they were nowhere to be seen.
Ahead, by his estimation, was the bridge's door. Robotnik would no doubt be waiting on the other side. Shadow had to plan this carefully.
Yet he was distracted by a muffled voice coming from a door in a little alcove to his side. An unchecked room, sealed tightly. Shadow examined the room's door. It could very well have been a trap. Perhaps Knuckles had been captured and was acting as bait. Shadow did not want to alert anyone on the bridge to his presence by breaking down the door. So he warped inside and stiffened to a combat stance.
However, Knuckles was not the cause of the struggled cries. It was an echidna nonetheless, smaller and outfitted differently from Knuckles. He watched her eyes, which stared back at his. They were wide, innocent, and frightened. She matched the description Knuckles had given him. She scurried away from Shadow, a difficult task for her bonded arms and legs.
Shadow stepped forward. "I'm not here to hurt you," he said. She did not appear to believe him. "You're Tikal, right? I'm here with Knuckles. We came to save you and the Chaos Emeralds." At Knuckles' name, she calmed down and allowed him to loosen the ropes holding her. He removed the tied cloth around her mouth. She was stunningly beautiful to say the least, especially when she smiled at him.
"Thank you," she said. He found himself drawn to her.
"You're welcome." He stood up and helped her to her feet. "Can you walk?"
"Yes," she said. "Hurry. We have to find the emeralds."
"Do you have any idea where Robotnik took them?" Shadow asked.
"I'm not sure," Tikal said. "He locked me in here after we boarded." Her eyes dropped to the green Chaos Emerald he held. "May I?" she asked. Shadow handed it over to her. Tikal closed her eyes and concentrated diligently on the gem. After several seconds, her eyes fluttered open. "At the front of this vessel," she said.
"The bridge," Shadow said, nodding. "Figures. Come on. We need to get you off this ship."
"No, I will go with you," Tikal said. "I must help, lest this man undo the power in the emeralds."
"You've helped enough," Shadow said. He experienced a brief sense of déjà vu that strengthened his curious urge to see her safely off the ship.
"Oh, I'm afraid you won't be going anywhere." Shadow spun around, snatching the emerald from Tikal. He held it high, ready to shoot its energy into the robots crowding the entrance. But one stepped aside, revealing a battered, restrained Knuckles. Large chains were attached to his neck, wrists, and legs. Several of the robots trained their arm cannons at his head. "Hand over the Chaos Emerald or say farewell to the Master Emerald guardian. Either way, I win," one of the robots said in Robotnik's voice.
"Don't do it!" Knuckles said.
"Please, you cannot allow them to kill Knuckles!" Tikal begged.
Shadow surveyed the situation. He counted seven drones aiming at Knuckles. He supposed he could hit five, maybe six if he really focused. Knuckles could probably break his bonds and take out the last one. But how to relay his plan to the echidna posed a problem.
Then there were the endless replacements behind the front guards. If Shadow destroyed the robots with Chaos Spears, how soon could the others take their fallen comrades' places? Shadow did not like the odds. Especially not for Tikal, who in every contingency to save Knuckles was left extremely vulnerable. Even if he carried her, that was added weight and put her at the center of the danger.
"I don't have all day," the drone said. Its cannon warmed up, a red glow building at the tip. "You have five seconds to decide. One. Two."
"Alright," Shadow said. "Alright."
"Good." The robot retracted its arm. "Throw the Chaos Emerald over." Shadow obeyed. The robot caught it and passed the gem to another member of its group. "Now follow my guards. Try anything and I'll make sure the entire echidna race extinct."
Shadow stood in front of Tikal, growling. "You harm her and I will show you no mercy."
"Leave her alone!" Knuckles added.
"Oh, I should have expected Knuckles, but Shadow having a soft spot? Color me surprised," the robot said. "Now let's move."
Reluctantly, the three were marched onto the bridge, where Robotnik sat in a cushy chair. The robot carrying the last emerald deposited it into his waiting hand. "Finally," Robotnik said, spinning around in his chair. "Thank you for bringing the last one, Shadow. And you've even brought me an audience. How thoughtful of you."
"What do you plan to do with the emeralds?" Tikal asked.
"Harness the power of Chaos, of course," Robotnik said.
"You're crazy!" Knuckles said, restrained by the robots. "Didn't you learn your lesson last time you summoned Chaos?"
"I said 'harness', not 'summon'," Robotnik said. He slipped the emerald into a console holding the other Chaos Emeralds behind him. "With this device," he said, patting the console, "and all seven Chaos Emeralds, I can reach into the Master Emerald, transferring Chaos' power to my ships and creating an unstoppable fleet."
"That will destroy the balance!" Tikal said.
"Well, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs," Robotnik said, shrugging. "Besides, I would worry more about my current predicament if I were you." He turned around, waving his hand at his drones. "Take them to a room with a view. I want them to see this. All hands, set a course for Angel Island."
Tikal looked to Shadow. He had not said anything the entire time. Rather, he had been examining the room, taking in every detail. When the robots started to lead them away, he leaned over to Tikal. "If one of the emeralds is missing, can we stop him?" She nodded.
He turned to Knuckles and whispered, "Can you get her out of here?"
"Sure," Knuckles said.
"Okay. Follow my lead." He stopped at the doorway and faked a fall. He dropped onto his hands and kicked the robot behind him. Knuckles headbutted another drone and broke his chains. Shadow rushed Tikal out of the room. "Stay here," he said. Then he rejoined the fight.
"Kill them!" Robotnik screamed. He was running away from the commotion. Meanwhile, Knuckles was tossing robots around the bridge. He threw one into the console containing the emeralds. It broke and Shadow scooped up his green emerald. He ordered Knuckles to leave. The echidna did so, carrying the other emeralds.
Lasers flared all about Shadow. He held his emerald tight and shot an arc of spears. The robots were pierced and destroyed easily. He threw other bursts of Chaos Spears into the room.
At one point, Shadow struck a particular console controlling the carrier's flight. Immediately, the carrier's nose tilted down. It was aimed directly at the ocean. Robotnik escaped from the bridge in the nick of time. There was a faint rumble, as if something launched from the carrier's side. Then the Eggmobile zoomed by the front window.
As gravity shifted, drone after drone slid by Shadow. Standing where he could, Shadow hopped and climbed out of the bridge.
The now empty hallways proved to be more problematic. But nevertheless, Shadow hopped against one wall, then the other. He ping-ponged back and forth, leaping wall to wall and steadily climbing higher.
When he arrived at the end, he was thrown off balance by an earth-shattering quake. He tumbled off his spot, but grabbed the ledge before he could fall. Then he heard a great shuddering below. Glancing down, he saw the hallway slowly filling with water. Shadow pulled himself up the ledge and turned to the next hall. He moved as fast as possible, jumping higher the closer the water level came.
"Oh, no!" Shadow turned toward a room. It sounded like Tikal was inside. He hopped in and found the echidna kneeling over Knuckles. She was tapping his cheek, trying to rouse him, but Knuckles appeared dazed.
"What happened?" Shadow asked, checking Knuckles for any severe injury.
"He was hurt trying to protect me," Tikal said. "He broke my fall when the ship tipped over."
"Where are the emeralds?" Shadow asked.
Knuckles lazily pointed to the other side of the room. Shadow gathered the emeralds and handed them to Tikal. Not a moment too soon, for a tide of water flooded into the room. Within seconds, it was level with Shadow's knees. "We have to leave! Now!" he said.
He threw Knuckles' arm over his shoulder. Tikal wrapped her arm around Shadow's waist, laying her head on his chest. He was taken aback and flustered a moment. But the chilling water crawling up his chest reminded him of his situation. He could not allow anyone to die. "Chaos Control!" he shouted, teleporting the three of them out of the carrier.
Then they were falling through the air. The carrier was bobbing in the ocean, half of it sticking out as it continued to sink. Shadow's quills whipped into his face. He held Tikal and Knuckles tight, especially the former as they cradled the emeralds between their bodies. He searched for any sign of land. Shadow spied Angel Island off in the distance.
Could he make it? He had never attempted something like teleporting during a free-fall. It would be tricky, but they were descending too fast for him to estimate their chances. He focused hard and screamed "Chaos Control" as they brushed the water.
Again, they were in the air. Again, they were falling. They were off-target and too far away. Shadow's strength was draining, but he made a final effort. They teleported once more, now above the island. Too far above the island. They were dropping at an incredible speed, right for the flat ground.
Tikal shrieked, breaking Knuckles' daze. The echidna righted himself and glided sideways. Shadow and Tikal clung to him tightly. The trio crashed into a tree and tumbled into thick brush. A sharp pain ran through Shadow's back as he landed. The other two fell on his chest, knocking the wind out of him.
Needless to say, Tikal was up first. She checked Knuckles, then Shadow. Knuckles was fine and sat up, shaking his head. On the other hand, Shadow was having difficulty breathing. He pushed Tikal away, gulping down air until he could properly raise himself. Even then, every movement hurt awfully.
When he tried to stand, he fell against Tikal. She supported him and with Knuckles' help, carried Shadow to the shack. They laid him on Knuckles' bed. As the guardian called Tails to report the good news, Tikal tended to Shadow. "Thank you for saving us," she said, checking him for wounds. All Shadow wanted to do was rest and sleep off the pain.
"Had to," he said, grunting when she touched a sore spot on his back.
"Sorry," she said. "But yes, I know. For the emeralds."
"Not them," he said, mumbling now. "Couldn't let you get hurt again."
"Again?" Tikal said. "What do you mean?" He did not answer. She shrugged and stopped moving him about. Within a minute, he was softly snoring. She touched his cheek and pecked his forehead. "Thank you."
Shadow murmured, but did not awake. Tikal smiled and left him alone. He slept for a long while, dreaming peacefully with a small half-grin.
A/N: Well, I think we did as well as we could with this. Then again, to tell everyone the truth, we had no idea what we were doing with this.
Pen: As usual.
No, no. Anyway, let us know what you think. At the very least, we hope you were entertained in some form. Thank you for reading.