His first intake of air felt like a gunshot straight into his lungs. Air... turned out to be not air at all, but a strange jelly-like substance, chilly and slimy on the touch. It enveloped him, gluing his arms to his torso safely, and filled his windpipe in a blink. He thought it was colored green. Or greenish yellow.
Such details were the last thing that bothered him at the moment, though. Shadow coughed fiercely, struggling to force the filth out of his breathing tract, and was stunned when he found out he couldn't. He drew his knees to his chest as much as the substance would allow him, trying to curl into a protective ball and then break away from this suffocating madness. He breathed in, an instinctive action he couldn't stop himself from doing-
And breathed out, amazed at how the jelly around him was saturated with oxygen his systems needed so urgently.
The dark form uncurled slowly, giving the world around him a suspicious look. His throat was still burning a little, but this was a much less frightening sort of burning. Now that he more or less adapted to the air being slightly more liquid than usually, and the immediate threat to his life moved away, Shadow noticed the vertical glass separating the greenish environment from the outside world. Everything beyond it was dark... Shadow narrowed his eyes, looking and looking and looking until he noticed him.
"Professor Gerald!?" he gasped.
Well, he tried to. All he managed to force out was a pitiful bubble of air, probably the last one left in his whole body.
There was no doubt; bent above the desk was his creator, Gerald Robotnik, the lead scientist of the space colony ARK. Two more scientists were with him, probably discussing something, but the jelly and the glass wouldn't let Shadow hear a thing. The world around was distorted enough as it was, and the hedgehog was happy he could recognize at least one familiar person.
What was going on, anyway? Shadow had gone through a number of tests before, but none of them involved him being locked up like this without as much as a warning. He tried to reach forward and tap on the glass to attract attention, and learned that he still couldn't move. It wasn't just the jelly thing, though: several elastic belts secured his arms and kept his body attached to the back of the capsule. The hedgehog stared at them, startled.
Just... what was that all about? Why was he contained like a dangerous monster..?
His gaze shot up just to see one of the men straighten up and head away from the desk, to- Shadow had to narrow his eyes again to see anything as the goo danced around him, blurring the lines- to the door? Yes. The door slid closed behind the man, but there was something on it that caught the hedgehog's attention. The jelly stung his eyes as he strove to make the insignia out-
And his heart nearly stopped when he recognized it.
A cumbersome G letter surrounded by several stars.
It all came down on him at once, like a giant hammer hitting the back of his head. Running along the passages lit with emergency lights, distant shooting, distant shouting, bulletproof glass separating him from Maria, Maria... Chaos, no, no, no, it couldn't have happened...
He jerked to curl up again, banging his head against his knees with as much force as his binds would allow him. It did not help at all, and the image imprinted on the back of his eyelids never went away. Shadow coughed, concentrating hard on the only thought that made sense at the moment.
She didn't die.
He saw the bullet go through her body, but she was still alive when she released the escape pod. There was no way nobody saved her after that! She was on a colony full of biologists and geneticists! Professor Gerald-
The scientist stood in front of the capsule now, arms behind his back, eyes unreadable behind his glasses. Shadow stared back, not even trying to hide all the pain distorting his features.
He is here to tell me that Maria is fine.
The human said nothing. He reached forward and put a small tube into a slot in the capsule's control panel. Maybe it was the streaming goo, maybe it was Shadow's tired vision, but he thought he saw the scientist's features contort... and it was not a smile.
Professor? Unable to speak out loud, the hedgehog could only ask with his gaze, but his creator already turned to return to his desk.
The substance around him slowly turned greenish blue, earning a look of confusion from him. What did it all mean? Why wouldn't the professor talk to him?
"Shadow, wake up."
He tried to kick the glass with his bare foot. This was so wrong, he had to get out, to find out what was going on...
"Shadow, come on. We don't have much t-"
The dark hedgehog shot up and seized the throat of the creature that disturbed him. Like a somnambulist, he took his time to open his eyes - and looked into those of a young lilac feline pressed against the stone wall by his hand. Her eyes were orange... just like the tiny flames that danced around her palms.
What puzzled him the most was that she didn't appear scared at all.
"Glad to see you're with us again," the cat said in a tired voice.
Shadow released her and stepped back a little, though never removing a suspicious look off of her. "Who are you?"
The flames on the lady's palms went out, and she grabbed his left hand with both of hers, shaking it firmly. "I'm Blaze. The guy behind that wall is Silver. Nice to meet you." She dropped his hand, and an impatient look followed. "Now, can we please go to a safe place where we will answer all of your questions?"
But I- Shadow swallowed that remark and looked around them, cautious. "Safe place?"
"Yes. As you can guess, this place is not safe."
Bare stone walls. Debris on the floor. An empty door frame, with sounds of some activity coming from the other side. It wasn't completely dark despite the lack of visible sources of light, though. Shadow stepped towards the window, and saw an abandoned skyscraper with pitiful remnants of glass windows. Several floors above them, two sectors were burning, providing that dim dancing light.
"Come on," Blaze repeated behind him.
He followed her into the next room, where they indeed found another living creature. A white hedgehog was busy stuffing several bags with the garbage from the floor. Shadow raised an eyebrow, confused; why would someone need all of those stone splinters?
The hedgehog, whom the cat called Silver, merely looked at them. "Okay, I'm almost done. Is everything alright?"
"As usual," said the cat, kneeling to help him.
Shadow stepped back, looking at the odd couple. He could swear he didn't know them, but it didn't stop them from acting as if they were allies... to say the least. And he didn't have a slightest idea what his personal interest in those stones was.
That burning skyscraper... it meant something, but Shadow wasn't sure he wanted to find out what.
"Here," said Blaze, standing up and dusting her hands off. "Now, it's your turn, Shadow."
"Mine?" The dark hedgehog still refused to understand.
"Yes. You have a Chaos Emerald with you. Just use it to warp us to the ARK. It is something you know, right?"
It was. The ARK was important to him... Shadow tried to recall why, but it suddenly was too much of a challenge for him. He shrugged and reached for his head quills, not at all surprised to find a Chaos Emerald between them. Whoever those guys were, they knew an unnerving lot of things about him...
"Chaos Control," he said, concentrating on a fleeting image of metal passages with darkness beyond the glass.
It worked... but he couldn't say the reality matched the image in his head. This ARK was old, with ancient machinery that obviously took a lot of effort to start. Many metal plates forming the inner surface of the colony were removed, exposing chunks of wires and rusty chips. A major part of the fluorescent tubes were inactive- for the sake of economy or just because they were broken beyond repair.
Somehow, the place was still alive. Anthropomorphs like him scurried through it, removing or replacing the panels, transporting vessels with plants from one passage to another, carrying instruments, simply walking past him with empty hands. In a room next to him, he briefly saw several simple hospital-like beds... it looked like a family of refugees lived there.
Nobody was paying attention to him. Shadow looked around only to find out that Silver and Blaze were no longer present. He huffed angrily and walked forward, somewhere... anywhere.
As he advanced, he thought he recognized places he saw. He had already been to this dust-covered lab, no doubt. This passage was once guarded by automated turrets. And this hall, one with a wall-wide glass where he could see the whole Earth... he recognized it, too.
The hedgehog approached the glass and placed both his palms on it. Of course he knew this place. He stood there after the battle with Black Doom, the leader of the alien race that attacked the planet. He used the Eclipse Cannon to destroy the comet that produced the alien monsters and then observed the result of his work - glowing red splinters dissipating in space.
But it wasn't over yet. He teleported to the planet and joined Sonic in the fight against the remaining alien troops left on the planet. Together, they dove deeper and deeper into the jungle in Mystic Ruins in search for the last surviving Black Arms, when...
Ash-grey skin with reinforced plates protruding it in most unexpected places. Limbs that looked more like ugly bent tree trunks. Bulky red wings. Massive horns and a single eye decorating a tiny head.
"That guy is just like Eggman. Doesn't know when to give up," Sonic said, rolling his eyes.
Shadow couldn't share that half-joking tone as he eyed Black Doom incredulously. It wasn't possible! Shadow himself vanquished him! He saw the monstrosity fall onto the planet, powerless-
"Surprised, Shadow?" Doom's voice echoed in his ears. "You shouldn't be. I am immortal, I am the perfect being that cannot be defeated. Your feeble efforts can buy you some time, but you will never be victorious in this war."
"Tell us this again when we are done with you and your army," Sonic replied, preparing for an unexpected battle.
The ultimate hedgehog wasn't in his Super form this time, but he had an ally, and besides that, Doom now knew better than to underestimate Gerald's creation. He circled around them, avoiding their charges, but not making any on his own. It wasn't until Sonic attempted an exceptionally powerful homing attack; the alien responded with a swift swipe of his monstrous arm, sending the blue blur in a flight into the jungle. Shadow balled his fists, finding himself face to face with his father.
His Chaos Spear dove into the rainforest as well; Black Doom never lost his ability to bend space freely without any Chaos Emeralds. He reappeared before Shadow and pressed him into pliant soil with his weight.
"Get off..." the hedgehog hissed, desperate to squirm out of the grip.
Doom ignored the order. "It seems that my previous lesson had no effect on you. I'm disappointed, Shadow... but, luckily for you, I am a patient teacher. I will give you a second chance..."
His free arm went down to squeeze Shadow's head. Trapped in his position, the hedgehog made a strangled sound, still twisting about and at the same time preparing for those clawed fingers to smash his skull.
Had he been able to see the whole picture, he would know that the latter was never going to happen. A quick death for Shadow was a show of mercy Doom would not afford.
Flood. That was the only word that rose in his mind when Doom's gaze met his.
Fighting back all those weird-looking monsters on the Earth and inside the Black Comet, he never actually wondered how they ended up stuck in a tiny object without its own constant place in space. Had Black Doom ever told Gerald that their home planet was destroyed? Probably he had, just to make the scientist more cooperative. It's easier to sympathize when you know that your companion had already lost everything.
A small red and yellow colored planet in a distant galaxy... Its sun was too greedy, and the poor planet in the end fell victim to its hunger. A sapient race inhabiting it was developed enough to construct a small armada of spacecrafts and flee the place they considered home before and that turned too dangerous now.
Where were they heading? No one knew.
What awaited them? Only space could tell.
Were they going to survive? Black Doom, their leader, wasn't sure.
Since their spacecrafts were partially made of flesh and lived lives of their own, they required just as much care as his people. For some decades, survival was a nightmare a human would never understand. Their mind was one, and every death from hunger or from the others' talons was felt by everyone. The lead spacecraft that united them all, the Black Comet, had a memory of its own... the memory that Black Doom filled with the history of their kind.
Even he couldn't tell how long their flight lasted. Generations of the Black Arms changed, but he, their immortal king, always remained. Ensuring his people lived, guiding their crafts through the nothingness. Occasionally he would force a transparent lid to appear in the comet's side and observe the space... but not for too long. Distant stars never looked inviting enough to be worth the attention.
Eventually, the initial velocity they had gained began falling down, and Doom had to think of a way to reincarnate their movement. Before that happened, though, they got caught in the gravity field of a small star. As a habit more than anything, Black Doom, who could easily survive being exposed to the space, explored the planets present in this solar system... and could not believe his luck. One of the planets was suitable for his kind!
He was annoyed to find out that the heavenly place was already taken by semi-sapient creatures. It might have been unfair towards the planet's inhabitants, but the survival of his race meant much more to Doom, and he couldn't grant the comet would stand another transgalactic leap. So, this meant war... if they were lucky, it would be a quick and painless one.
Black Doom soon regretted the decision he took. The first fortress he experimentally warped down to the planet was soon lost to tiny multi-colored creatures along with the stones that powered it. Gritting his teeth, he threw his troops onto the enemy. Soil boiled, coming in contact with the alien blood. Somehow, they seemed to be winning the war when the disaster happened.
Shadow watched a breathtaking mass of water sweep over the world, taking away echidnas and aliens alike. In the epicenter of a newborn tsunami was a monster next to which Black Doom looked like a kicked puppy. A water creature of incredible height rose above the valleys, burning everything in its way with its boiling water and its hatred.
Thousands of aliens died that day. Black Doom drowned with every single one of his people, staying alive at the same time. The hedgehog had to grip his forehead to hold back a sinking feeling he experienced as well.
He sank to his knees on a mountain slope. The alien leader, now a shapeless mass of drenched flesh, sat next to him, never moving his eye off the beast. "It will take our kind centuries to recover... Doesn't matter; sooner or later, we will return to reclaim this planet. And you, Shadow, will be there to help us."
An ugly head cocked to the side, and a glowing yellow eye peered into Shadow. "These creatures cannot win this war, as you cannot run away from these memories and your blood now. Remember, Shadow: when your world rejects you and you can no more put up with what you are, I'll be the only one who can help you.. and I'll be waiting for you."
He shot up and stared into green eyes full of worry. Black Doom wasn't anywhere in sight, and Shadow himself was covered with soil and dirt. He clenched and unclenched his fists, slowly adjusting to his reality.
"Glad to see you're fine," the blue one backed a little, still looking at Shadow. "Hey, he hasn't gotten your Chaos Emeralds, has he?"
The dark hedgehog froze. Emeralds, the blue creature with green eyes, that was supposed to mean something, but he was unable to grasp it.
"I- I don't remember..." he stuttered.
Him. Them. Everything. For so many years, Shadow traveled through space with Black Doom and his army; to recall his companion's name, Shadow would have to go into the past and see what happened to him aeons ago. It was simply beyond his might.
The other one didn't really need his answer, though.
"Darn!" He jumped up to his feet. "If you're hurt, better stay here. I'll be back shortly."
With that said, he was indeed gone. Shadow didn't mind; some alone time was something he would really appreciate.
He buried his fingers into his head quills and shut his eyes tight. What was going on now meant something to him, his inner voice kept repeating... but what?
What happened to him?
War. The water monster. Space... That was where things became especially blurry. He knew he was sealed withing a speck lost somewhere in space. He reached out to touch the walls and felt them shudder upon his touch. Was it metal? Shadow couldn't tell.
His lonely form stumbled through the dark passages, hitting obstacles of unknown origin. When he had no more power left in his limbs, he let his knees bend and collided with the glass during his fall. His eyes peered into the blackness beyond. A cozy blue planet had to be there... but it wasn't.
Earth was its name. At least something he could figure out.
"This is where our rebirth shall begin... Don't you agree with me?" a low voice beside him laughed, creating many echoes in enclosed space.
Black Doom... Shadow's legs suddenly revived and forced him out of that hall, out of the dark passages, onto the streets swarming with humans. Some ignored him. Some feared him, and their hateful gazes made his skin burn. The realization hurt, both physically and mentally, so he strove to get out of their sight. He ran till the streets were no more crowded; a dead part of the city. Or an entire dead city. The idea wasn't bothering him.
Shadow got down to the ground and let his muscles relax. He felt content for once; the darkness left his head, leaving the place to formless blurs. They didn't cause him any pain, and it was enough for him to enjoy their presence.
Someone's gloved palm lowered onto his shoulder, making him twitch. "Sorry," murmured a voice above his ear. "Just thought you needed help."
He looked up and found a male fox by his side. Even from his sitting position, Shadow could tell his visitor was taller than him.
"I have something for you. Look!"
Something lay on his outstretched palms, and Shadow stared at the weird contraption.
"I, um, I know you have problems with your memory," the fox said uneasily. "And you don't like it when either of us sticks around. So, maybe you'll at least keep this robot and let it be your companion. It's very intelligent, and I programmed it to answer any questions it is asked."
The fox waited for something, but Shadow didn't react. In the end, his visitor went away, and as he walked, the hedgehog noticed how he had two fuzzy tails instead of one.
He observed his present with dull curiosity. The blue robot instantly whirred into life, hovering just above the gloved palms. Its appearance was such a grotesque copy of some life form that Shadow cringed. He wasn't that useless to have clowns supporting him.
"What are you?" His voice was harsh from a lack of talking practice.
"Hello, I'm Omochao!" the creature nearly yelled. Apparently, Shadow's emotions were reflected in his features, for the flying ridicule lowered the volume drastically and carried on in an almost normal tone. "From now on, I'll be your faithful assistant. Ask me a question, and I'll do my best to answer it!"
"Who am I?"
"Shadow the Hedgehog, created by Professor Gerald Robotnik on the space colony ARK. Now a part of the resistance against the Black Aliens invading Earth."
He remembered the sympathetic two-tailed fox. "Who created you?"
"Tails the Fox, current co-leader of the resistance along with Amy Rose. He took the role after the disappearance of the Earth's hero and his best friend, Sonic the Hedgehog, during a battle with Black Doom."
Black Doom... Shadow frowned. He didn't want that name in his head.
Sonic the Hedgehog... a familiar name, too. Shadow was related to him. Shadow was even related to his disappearance. He didn't want to go there, either.
He watched and watched and watched his chatting companion, who was now for some reason telling him about that Amy Rose. Then, he reached out and crushed the onion-shaped metal head in his fist.
Tails really could have given his creation a nicer voice.
He kept pressing against the metal until it broke and could no longer move. Then, he moved on to another robot and just repeated his actions. And again. And again. Daily battles were all like this: they faced a crushing tide of robots and had to remain the last ones standing. Occasionally, they would find themselves out of luck, and out of hundreds there would be one robot fast enough to reach its target.
One more pawn went down. And one more. And one more. Within blinking time he finished three more of them. Tails shouted something to him from above; was the fox in danger? Shadow was too busy to look, and anyway, Rouge was there to protect him.
Eggman had always been such a fool. Was a world-wide war a good opportunity to try and build your own empire while no one is looking? In the madman's world, the answer was a firm yes. It was taking effort to explain him how wrong he was... effort and people they needed so drastically to fight the enemy from the outer space.
He and an E-2000 unit came face to face, arms of flesh grasping arms of metal. The robot couldn't use its shield or energy cannon now, but Shadow couldn't attack, either. He bared his teeth, seeing how a crowd of pawns had already formed around them.
"Are you too scared?" the hedgehog growled. His lungs couldn't offer enough air for him to speak in full sentences.
Then, there was the strike from behind. Vision blacked out immediately; other senses lasted a little more, enough for him to feel his body sinking to the ground and metal claws grasping his sides. He made a throaty sound to voice his protest, but who was there to listen to him?
So he just lay there, making no attempts to get up. He was too tired to move, anyway.
"I'm worried about Shadow. Have you checked him, Mental?"
Shadow liked how soft this voice was. Whoever its owner was, she was worried about him, so he decided he should probably listen on.
"Yeah," a male voice replied. "Boy, his head is a mess. Poor guy."
"What do you mean by that?" the female voice insisted.
"Black Doom's done something to his head, so his memories now try to merge with reality all the time. Well... it's not like they are really his, though. My guess is that Black Doom overloaded Shadow's mind with fake memories until it couldn't take them in anymore. But our memory is finite, see? Because of that, he can't properly reflect the world he lives in right now."
Space, Shadow thought lazily. Stars were imprinted on the back of his eyelids, and he could easily touch them with as much as reaching forward. But he really needed to save the energy still left in his body, so he preferred to keep enjoying the conversation instead for now.
"The weird thing is that it all seems very unstable," the telepath called Mental carried on. "Memory should appear more or less linear, his keeps shuffling endlessly, and it shouldn't be like this. It's pretty hard to explain... It's like uncontrolled time-traveling, only much worse."
A long pause occurred.
"Can you help him?" the lady asked so quietly Shadow could barely make out her words.
"Blaze, look- i-it's not that easy. I can't just wipe him clean and then explain who he really is. His memory is already damaged enough, and if I somehow make it worse, and that's very likely to happen..." the voice trailed off helplessly.
"Does it mean you cannot do anything?"
"No. I'm really sorry, but I can't."
The Earth looked so peaceful from afar. He didn't enjoy this aggressive orange shade that lay on it, he liked it more when it was more of a delicate blue color, but still. From his spot in time and space, he didn't see the planet bleed, and he was happy about it. Maybe if he pretended nothing was wrong, the world would eventually leave him alone?
Then someone pulled the lever, and all of it was gone.
Shadow sat up and opened his eyes to find himself in a partially collapsed shed. On his right was an abandoned fireplace; the remnants were still radiating dangerous red glow, but no one was around it. The hedgehog made it to his feet slowly, determined to get his company back. It was the dead of night, and he stared helplessly into the black beyond the window.
If it was the sky, no stars were visible from there.
He stepped out and at first had to move along the stone wall, touching it with his fingers to keep some sense of direction. As his vision adjusted, he began to make out the pavement he was stepping onto. Now he could tell he was in a city, only not a city that would resemble those he knew. One or two-storey simple rectangular buildings surrounded him, separated from each other by narrow alleys. No glass, no metal in sight. No lights, either. The last detail troubled him the most; he didn't want the place to look so dead.
The air was still and remarkably hot for a night time.
Wandering further into the streets only brought more darkness to his eyes. Stone was crackling under his steps, as if weakened and broken by time or another force of equal power. At some point it started clanking after coming in contact with his footwear. Was it metal? Shadow frowned: it wasn't supposed to be scattered on the ground.
His route ended in a square with a massive fountain in the middle. The fountain was inactive, just like about everything in this city. Shadow stopped, not sure there was any point in going further.
"Is anyone here?" he asked out loud. His voice came out hoarse and repulsive rather than welcoming.
Again he saw some wreckage decorating the floor before him. Most of it reflected the moonshine streaming from above, so Shadow could tell it was metal after all. He knelt to have a closer look at a long and heavy armor plate. It was bent and scorched; by the look of it, its previous owner hadn't let go of it without a fight.
The hedgehog proceeded to look at the other fragments. More plates. Curved spikes. Something that looked like a flame-thrower nozzle. He couldn't identify the last remaining piece, so he again knelt to inspect it closely.
Something round... a robot head. He turned it to look into blinded red oculars, and then it hit him.
The muscles in his arms cramped, letting the robot head out. His insides contorted next, and he shut his eyes tight to make the sensation more bearable. The effect was exactly the opposite; his neck seemed to be dissipating now, and he couldn't tell below from above to find more support. Probably fainting now would be the best solution for him...
"It wasn't very wise of you to wake up now, Shadow."
He couldn't agree any more. The black hedgehog wished he could fall asleep again, or just somehow get away from wherever he was. What had he done wrong to make the world so hateful towards him?
"Well, since you are awake now, you can open your eyes. It's not like you can do anything about your position anyway, so just look on and enjoy every moment of it. If you can, that is."
Shadow did as he was told. The world around was green... transparent green made of liquid saturated with oxygen just for him. He was inside a compact metal capsule, fixated on his place with several belts and an unseen thing attached to the back of his neck. The liquid was icy cold and tasted like salty jelly. Sensitive skin inside his mouth and nose burned upon touching it.
Hadn't he been through all of this before?
There was a glass window in the capsule's plating right in front of his muzzle. Through it he could see a tall and rotund human, facing Shadow's cage with his arms behind his back.
You!? Shadow wanted to shout. No words escaped his mouth.
"I really should thank you, Shadow," the man said meanwhile. Apparently, he didn't at all mind his prisoner only listening rather than talking. "Without you, my next plan would never become possible. Before you return to your slumber, I would like you to have a look at the army you so nicely helped me create."
His voice was distorted. Everything seemed so distorted from inside the tight metal walls filled with liquid pain.
A vibration and a clinking noise came from beneath the capsule as it span around itself. What slowly came into his field of view made Shadow choke and shudder in disgust. He saw more capsules similar to his, all standing in accurate rows in a huge hall. To his horror, not a single one of them was empty: all were filled with the same green liquid... and he could see dark spiky silhouettes in every one of them.
"Behold my Shadow Androids," Eggman announced from behind. "I made sure they inherited all of your outstanding powers, at the same time being as obedient as all of my robots are. They aren't ready yet, but just you wait... Sorry I had to take your DNA samples in such a crude manner, but do not worry: by the end of this cycle, you will be free of whatever unpleasant sensations you are experiencing now."
A dull click resonated through the liquid surrounding him, apparently emitted by the device attached to his neck. Maybe it meant that the cycle was nearing its end, maybe it indicated that the cycle had only just begun; in any case, the device was now tugging at his flesh and bones so powerfully as if it was programmed to decapitate the hedgehog. Shadow swallowed his growls of pain along with mouthfuls of green goo.
He twisted about violently, which didn't perturb the belts at all. There had to be a way for him to gain enough momentum to tear them apart...
"That Sonic seems to have beaten you back on the ARK," Eggman said, entering Shadow's field of view and approaching a vast table with mountains of blueprints. "Lucky rodent, isn't he? We'll see how lucky he will be with hundreds of Shadows opposing him. Do not worry: I'm not planning to make you enter the battle personally. You will stay in the safety of my base, and Omega will be there to be your bodyguard. I think you may even become friends eventually."
For a moment, the world around him turned into a blur. Where was he? For Chaos' sake, what was he doing there, in a hall where Eggman was constructing clones of him? He had to be away from here, fighting Black Doom...
"Why am I telling you about my plans, you may ask?" came the madman's voice from a place that seemed to lay in another universe. "You know, you are a perfect listener right now, Shadow. You cannot interrupt me like that blue rat would do. And, actually, you will not remember this conversation after it's over."
He stepped away from the table, inspecting something he was holding in his hand. "Amazing scientist he was, my grandfather, don't you agree? A true genius of his time. He knew that if he succeeded in creating an immortal life form, his creation was doomed to lose its mind eventually. Hedgehog memory is finite, but when you supply it with new memories within an infinite period of time, you mind is bound to pop... figuratively speaking."
Shadow could finally make out the object in Eggman's hand: a small tube filled with blue substance. The sight made his thrashing increase. He didn't want this to happen! He had to get out, to find Tails and see if he was okay, to find Black Doom and, and, and...
"He couldn't find a way to create an infinite memory in such a short amount of time he was given, so he came up with a much better solution. My grandfather chose to enhance the forgetting mechanisms in your head. Once in a while, your memory would be wiped clean, letting only the most prominent recollections stay. His idea was that even they would fade away with time, so every time the wipe takes place, it will leave you with a lighter memory and perfectly sane. The best part of it is that the mechanism can be triggered manually as well... which, you know, has already helped my grandfather a great deal. As it is going to help me."
The hedgehog eyed the scientist, fury and confusion mixed together in his gaze. Was that what was happening to him? Had his memory turned into a rusty carousel of random visions?
What Black Doom had to do with it all? He and Shadow traveled through space to save their kind. And then Shadow was killed by Sonic. And then he was created by Gerald Robotnik. And now Eggman was making an army of his lookalikes. And he still had to find Tails for some reason. There had to be some sense somewhere in it...
He helplessly watched the human put the tube into the control panel, which soon resulted in the green liquid around him turning blue. Eggman waved him goodbye encouragingly and returned to his blueprints, leaving the tortured hedgehog alone with his attempts to collect the memories left in him and pass them to his future self.
The name was Shadow the Hedgehog. He was created aboard the space colony ARK by Gerald Robotnik. He fought hard and then sacrificed his life to save the world... from himself. How did it come to this?
The blue bubbles span around him, stinging his skin until his head was detached from his body completely. Apparently, this Shadow wasn't going home tonight...
He fought side by side with Sonic against the Black Aliens, his father Black Doom and his siblings whose survival depended on him. What made it go so terribly wrong?
His immortal body was drowning in raging blue waters, suffocating in space, burning upon entering the atmosphere at breakneck velocity. He had to swallow back the taste of blood in his mouth, unable to tell the world how unjust towards him it was.
And all this time, Black Doom's glowing red eye stared down at him. Was he angry? Was he disappointed? Maybe he was even dead for once, and Shadow just didn't know about it yet.
Shadow the Hedgehog still had a mission to complete for his father...
Too bad he didn't remember what it was.