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Chapter 11

It Was…

The Freedom Fighters were still stuck in the Egg Vineyard. Many have tried to break free of the technological prison, but none prevailed. It felt especially worse for Shadow. For the past few days, he had been forced to watch as Maria had suffered because of Eggman. Seeing her cry herself to slumber and not be able to comfort her brought tears to his eyes as well. Most nights, he couldn't find the ease to sleep at all.

It was early Christmas morning, and Shadow's eyes were closed. He had just barely began to fall asleep. Suddenly, he heard a voice he never heard before. "Shadow..."

"Huh? Wha...? Who said that?" He looked around to see if Sonic or Chris or somebody was up. But everyone he saw was asleep. "Hm... Must be hearing things..."

But he spoke too soon. "Shadow..." the voice repeated.

The coal hedgehog looked around again. "Who's there?" he asked. "And how do you know I'm Shadow? Do you work for Makuta?"

Rather suddenly, it seemed as though a light shown around him. A light so bright it made him lose sight of everything around him. Yet this light was not painful to the eye at all, rather it was pleasant. "Shadow..." the voice said a third time.

He didn't need to ask a third time. He knew the answer. "You... You're..."

"Yes. I am He for whom you are fighting."

Shadow was awe-struck, present before the Great Spirit. He didn't know what to say or do. Granted his actions were to be held to a minimum. Before he spoke up, he bowed his head in reverance.

"Spirit..." he began, "we need your help. Our world is falling apart. Makuta has one of the Rings, his Dark Hunters are destroying the planet, and we haven't found your True Power. Please, you have to do something."

He said, "I did... I created you. And though you may not understand it now, your role in the ongoing battle is more important than you can possibly imagine."

The Great Spirit was right about one thing on Shadow's part. "I don't understand."

"Trust me. Your destiny is near. Remember who you are. Remember the vows you have made." Then, the Great Spirit left him, and the light subsided.

"Shadow, just give up," Knuckles moaned as he woke up. "If you're having trouble, we can't get out," he added, oblivious of what had happened.

All of a sudden, the large screen over the way out turned on. The bright light woke everybody in the prison up with a shock. The old man himself appeared. "Citizens of Earth, this is Doctor Eggman coming to you live from my glorious battle station, the Dark Egg!"

Near his cousin's room, Eggman waited down at the hallway. A Dark Hunter involuntarily held a camera in its claws as they were recording it for the world to see.

"Today is a big day for my magnificent Empire. The next generation will be crowned queen and take over my life's work." He then turned up to his cousin's room. "Maria! It's time!"

The yellow hedgehog was still in her room, her eyes wide open. She was still having trouble processing the horrid truth she had recovered.

"Maria!" Eggman called out again, and the door was open. "Ah, there she is, ladies and gentlemen. Maria Robotnik, reincarnated relative of mine and heiress to the throne. Anything you'd like to say to the public, my dear?"

She mumbled something to herself. It was silent but barely audible.

He could barely hear. "What was that?" She then muttered something else so silently, it caused him to growl. He turned to the camera, slightly nervous. "Camera shy… Come on now, Maria. Whatever that was, say it aloud for the world to hear!"

Without hesitation, she did as told. "You killed me that day fifty years ago. Didn't you?"

Eggman froze, his eyes wide. 'How did she…?'

"Happy now, cousin? Or should I even call you that?"

The old man, acting fast, tried to turn her direction away from the subject. "Anyway, it is time for you to take your rightful place on the throne. We haven't any time to–"

"Don't cover it up, Ivo! I have enough evidence to support my claim. Now, tell the truth!"

"What are you talking about?" He took her hand. "Come along, now. So much to do, so little time…"

Maria yanked her arm free of his. "Tell me the truth, Doctor Eggman! NOW!"

As her demand echoed through the Dark Egg, the elder doctor glared at her. "Fine." Then he started to explain.

"After one of my older setbacks, I hid myself in an abandoned G.U.N. laboratory. There, I stumbled upon our grandfather's logbook, which I discovered had valuable information the government was trying to hide… Space Colony ARK, the Eclipse Cannon, Project: Shadow, prototype time travel, really creepy stuff. The crazy thing was they were all made before I was even born. I then had the brilliant idea to use Grandpa Gerald's legacy as the foundation for the Eggman Empire."

What he didn't realize was that Makuta's minion was broadcasting the whole thing.

"In order to better my chance of success, I had to get rid of something from the past. Of course, I couldn't just take anything… this 'something' had to be special… irreplaceable. It had to be so important to Shadow that if he was in the right state of mind, he would turn against the world that feared him. The only 'something' that special… is you."

The yellow hedgehog was furious. She thought the G.U.N. had killed her by accident. It was intentional, and what was worse… it was her own family. Or at least he was her family. She angrily shoved him away.


"I cannot believe I'm a slave for such a selfish brat!" she stated. "I always believed there was good in everyone, but boy… you proved me wrong!"

"You don't like that? Well, there's more," he continued. "According to history, Gerald was driven mad by your 'untimely demise.' He swore vengeance on humanity and reprogrammed his life's work to carry out his last wish, right?"

Maria hesitated to answer. She knew he would not have mentioned that unless… "What did you do to him?"

"Me? I did nothing at all," he protested with a grin. "…unless posing as him to cover my tracks counts as doing something to him. Does it?"

"You mean you killed Grandfather too?!"

"Actually, no. He died of his illness the day before, I can honestly say that."

"Wait a second…" Maria realized something. "That was you on Shadow's birthday, not Grandfather!" she shrugged. "What you did was unforgivable."

"Don't lecture me, young woman!" he rebutted. "Your so-called friends are still in my prison, so if you want to see them fried to death–"

"I'm still taking the throne," she said suddenly. "And don't say so-called."

"Really?" he asked, amazed.

"I'm doing it for my friends and family, the Freedom Fighters, and the world… but not for you. We're not cousins, and you'll never be a Robotnik."

Eggman snuffed. "Fair enough..."

Speaking of the Freedom Fighters, they were in shock as they realized the horrid truth. They began discussing among themselves.

"That's it. He's going down."

"Gee, I knew Egghead was evil, but this isn't like him."

"I never thought he'd stoop to such a level!"

"What if he tries this on someone else?!"

"Once I break out, boy, is he gonna get a load from me!"

"But you heard what Eggman said. We're never getting out."

"Think again!" shouted a childish voice. Suddenly, the glass chamber holding the G.U.N. agent burst open. He looked up after falling to the floor. There, in front of him, three bodies stood. It was Decoe, Bocoe and Bokkun.

"What the…?" Shadow thought. "Don't you three work for…?"

"We're on the good guy side now. We're here to rescue you." They came across the floor to reach the control panel.

But before they could, Metal Shadow dropped down in front of them. "You wish to free them. This unit must destroy you." He stood ready to fight.

The three stood scared. None of them wanted to fight such a powerful robot. Decoe and Bocoe glanced at each other. "Loser fights him?" asked one, and the other agreed.

"Rock, doughnut, Thursday, shoot!" And they hold their hands out at one another.

"I win! Doughnuts are half-price on Thursday!"

"No! The doughnut store's closed on Thursday!"

Metal Shadow stood in confusion. He processed the data he had collected and tried to evaluate it as best as possible. "This game… it does not make sense!"

As Metal Shadow waited for them, Rouge flew in from behind. She began to active the console and smiled in thanks to the three for distracting the enemy robot.

"Rock, doughnut, Thursday, shoot!" Decoe and Bocoe tried again.

"Rock smashes Thursday!" Bocoe declared.

"You cannot use Thursday. Thursday is not an object." Metal Shadow uttered.

"Ooh, nice move," the other commented. "But you forgot about Leap Year."

Logical Reasoning irrelevent… Game illogical. Too illogical! Fatal Error!" Metal Shadow smoked, and he sparked, and he suddenly collapsed from overheating.

As they continued to release the captives, Shadow asked the obvious question. "But how did you know where we were?"

"It wasn't easy, but Rouge helped us." Bokkun told them.

As they continued, Rouge looked somewhat ashamed before Shadow. "I'm sorry this happened," she told him. "You were right. I was jealous. But this wasn't what I wanted. Can you please forgive me?"

"I already have." Shadow was pleased. It seemed to him that the Great Spirit was smiling on him. But now was not the time to think so. He still had work to do. "You guys head to the G.U.N.," Shadow instructed. "I'm going for Maria."

The coal hedgehog was about to head out for her when Sonic stopped him. "And commit suicide in the process? I don't think so," he stated.

"Go back to base with the others, Sonic. That's an order."

"What is this to you? Playtime?" he asked. "So you can be the Ultimate Lifeform again?"


"Then what? What is it?"

"I'm not... strong enough to-!"

"Strong enough? And this will make you stronger?!"

"Yes. Wait! No!"

"Is that what this is?! Some sort of work out?!"

"I can't lose her again!" Shouted the military agent. Seeing the shock on their faces, he quickly calmed down. "Do any of you know what it's like to watch someone you love die right in front of you, and you can't help them at all?" he asked. "Losing Maria completely broke my heart… made me realize I had a heart for that matter. Watching her suffer the past few weeks brought it all back, and… I'm not strong enough to lose her again." He looked as though he were about to cry, but he held back. "Look, I'm going. There's no reason to stop me, so…"

"Who said I was gonna stop you?" Sonic asked.

Shadow nearly jumped. "W-What?"

"I'm coming with you." Sonic added. "She's my sister and my friend."

"He's right," Sally stated, "We're all brothers and sisters in arms, Shadow. Whatever happens, we're there for each other and for you."

The ebony crimson hedgehog was not sure what to say. He was pleased to have been given friends like these. He smiled in thanks. It was going to be a good day after all.

"Then it's settled." Sally turned to everyone. "The fate of this planet hangs in the balance. Eggman has gone too far this time. Today, in the name of freedom, we take the battle to them!"

All the prisoners shouted in agreement. They would join them and end the war once and for all.

'Hang on Maria… We're coming…' Shadow thought to himself and crossed his arms.

Chapter 10

Confessions of a G.U.N. Spy

As the next few weeks flew by, the world became more under Eggman's thumb than ever before. Between capturing the Freedom Fighters, using Shadow as his prime energy source, and sending the Dark Hunters across the nations, concurring the planet became far easier. A large portion of the G.U.N. tried to settle the oncoming alienated invaders, but it didn't prevail.

Maria, it seemed, had the worst experience of them all. She was forced to send the horde out herself. And if she didn't, Eggman would extract more Chaos energy from Shadow and a few others. Knowing they were the only ones who could stop them, she had to do as told in order to keep them alive long enough for them to find a way to escape. And each night, she was so upset from all the wrong she had caused, she would almost always cry herself to sleep.

It was the morning before Christmas Day, and a very special one for a certain evil dictator… When he got to the door, he opened it laughing jubilantly. "The time has come, cousin!" It was Doctor Eggman. Then he saw Maria working with Cubot. "What the...? What happened to him?"

"Not sure," replied Maria. "We'll find out as soon as I'm done fixing him."

"When do you suppose that'll be?"

"Well, I had a bit of trouble before, especially with his voice chip, but I should be finished in just a few minutes."

"Very well, but that's not why I'm here. I'm here to give you this…" He handed a box to Maria.

The blonde hedgehog hesitantly opened it, and she was amazed. Inside the box was a rhinestone tiara with a sapphire gemstone. It sparkled from the light behind her.

"Today is the big day. Today, you shall assume the throne and become Empress Maria Robotnik. And just in time for us to take over the world!" The old doctor laughed loudly and crazily. It quickly became a cough and then a laugh again.

"Wow… has he always been this crazy?" Maria mumbled to herself.

"What was that?!"

"N-Nothing! Nothing important!" She laughed nervously.

"That's what I thought… Now, I'll be back with a camera crew in about half an hour! We wouldn't want the world to miss this momentous occasion." He left for the door.

Maria sat back down after he left. To think that she would be forced to such an awful position… she could only hope that the Sonic and the gang would break free in time. Then, she heard some knocking on her window. Outside, she saw a shadow moving. Carefully, the hedgehog girl approached the window, her senses at full alert.

Suddenly, a glove-covered hand touched the window. She gasped by the shock and watched how it removed some of the frost. Then she got direct eye-contact with a pair of sapphire blue eyes accompanied with bat wings.

"Rouge!" She opened the window, and the G.U.N. spy clambered in. She was the only one who still hadn't been captured by the Legion. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," replied the bat. "The rations have successfully been delivered. I was almost captured, but it was worth it."

Maria smiled. Throughout the time of Eggman's extended domination, the two girls have secretly been supplying food, water, clothing, and other special needs to the nations. It seemed to be the only thing that kept her at ease during the time. Although, something still bugged her only when she was around the bat girl.

She looked out the window. "I sure wish what we've supplied is enough for the planet's population. It seems to be getting harder to do this."

"Hey, if not for you, people would be starving, dehydrated and cold in the streets." She placed a hand on her shoulder. "You may be in the wrong place, but you're doing the right thing, Blondie. We're all grateful."

"But how much longer can we pull this off?" Maria asked as she looked at the Mobian before her. "At least someone is able to help me… even if it's someone I'm jealous of..."

The white bat was puzzled and surprised. "You? Jealous?"

"Yes... You and Omega are Shadow's closest friends. He would trust you with his life," Maria replied. "And all the adventures you had with him: the ARK incident, the Black Comet, Soleanna… you stood by his side when no one else could. I can't help but be envious."

"He– he told you that?"

"He told me a lot about you." Maria gave Rouge an ensuring smile.

The white bat looked the other way, ashamed of herself. "Then he has too high thoughts of me… I'm not a good person."

The golden girl giggled at her. "Oh, don't be ridiculous. Why would you think that?"

Rouge couldn't keep it in any longer. At that moment, she made the biggest confession of her life. "I did this, okay?! I told Eggman where you were! I ruined everything!"

Maria was surprised. She wasn't expecting this to occur.

"I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!" the bat continued. "Shadow was right. I'm… I'm jealous! I mean, you're his best friend, right? He trusts and cares for you far more than he does for me." Tears began to emerge from her eyes. It was the first time in years she had actually cried. "Between us, I formed a crush on him. I was scared that I was gonna lose him to you. Eggman was my last resort, but I only wanted you away from him. I never wanted any of this!"

When she finished her rambling, she settled down but was still disgraced with herself. "I'm not asking you to forgive me. And I wouldn't blame you if you hated me… I just want you to understand."

When Rouge was finished, Maria was still surprised. But she smiled. Without any warning, she grabbed her in a hug and held her tight. "I forgive you…"

The bat woman hesitantly returned the gesture. Her feelings about Shadow were still a mess, but after her brief conversation with Maria, it kind of eased her frustrations. Maria was right. She did do good things in life, and she wasn't always as selfish as Sonic and the others had accused her to be.

Their embrace, however, was cut short when they suddenly heard a knock on the door. "Can I come in?" It was Orbot. He had come by to check on Cubot, but he didn't want to open the door to anything he shouldn't.

"Oh. Uh... just a second." As Maria was speaking, Rouge had zipped out the window. Maria then quickly came to the door and let the round one in. She was just about to give Orbot some good news if not for the uneasy expression on his face. "Are you worried about Cubot? Because..."

"It's not that," the robot replied. "I mean this in the nicest of ways, ma'am, but I fear that your desire to accomplish the most miniscule tasks causes Cubot and I to appear inferior by comparison."

"'Desire?' Orbot, I hate being the princess."

"You do?"

"If this is what being a princess is, then yes. So much negativity, and who wants to live a life filled with hate?"

"Then why are you doing this?" the round robot asked.

"It's the only way I can protect my friends and family."

"I don't think I'll ever understand you organic life forms."

"I assume you'd do the same for Cubot." She snapped her fingers. "Speaking of which..." Maria then returned to Cubot and quickly made some adjustments. Soon, the hedgehog girl reactivated the machine.

Cubot's optical processors slowly opened. Then, suddenly, he stood up. "Watch what you're grabbing there, Bozo!"

"Huzzah! He's fixed," the round one cheered. "Cubot, tell us what happened to you."

"It's Makuta! He dismantled me!" he answered. "And I liked being mantled."

Orbot spoke up afterwards. "That's why he didn't bother to help me... Why would he do that?"

"Lemme check my memory circuit..." the edged one stood silently for a moment. Then he replied. "...all I remember is... I found these video files on a flash drive on the floor, I asked Makuta what to do with then, and then he got mad at me. Next thing I know, here I am."

"Here. Let me see." Receiving the drive, she plugged it in her computer to reveal two video documents, one of which was under her name. "Hey. It's for me. This was recorded the day before the ARK attack." She clicked on the document, and there, in a hospital bed on the screen, her grandfather sat.

"Hello, Maria," he began and then let out a sickening cough. "Sorry. I'm a bit under the weather. They say I'll be fine, but I thought I'd record this just in case." He coughed again as he continued. "Anyway, I looked into the blueprints for the machine that was built to save you. In the process, I stumbled upon something that I find rather interesting… It says you want to become a Mobian Hedgehog so that you can be with Shadow."

The girl sighed and looked away, ashamed. 'Here it comes again…'

"I just want you to know that I have approved of your new body. I've approved your feelings for Shadow months ago, and I've already given you my blessings," said the late professor. This surprised her. "Yes, my dear. I've known for quite some time now. I'll admit it concerned me at first, but I couldn't help but feel like you two were meant for each other. So I've actually tried to find a way to make you a hedgehog for years. And this may be our only way. Supposing this is my death bed, that's all I want for when I die… for both of you to be happy."

"Professor, lights out!" shouted a voice in the background.

"Almost done!" he replied. Then he looked back at the camera. "I have to go now. Good luck with your new life, my granddaughter. I hope that you and Shadow will be happy, whatever happens from here on. Goodbye..." With his goodbye said, the screen displaying Gerald Robotnik's image faded, and the screen flickered out.

Maria was extremely puzzled. "But I-I-I don't–!" she stuttered. "If he approved of this, why did he scold me about my feelings the next day?!"

"Beats me. Antibiotic side effects?" Orbot replied.

"Antibiotics that change your mind about a decision? That doesn't make sense. I gotta get to the bottom of this..." She began to search the computer for more clues. But no matter where she searched... "It's no good. I can't access any information I don't already know."

Then, Orbot remembered something. "I got an idea! If we can access the ARK security surveillance archives, we can see what actually happened." He stepped over and tried to do so.

The computer showed images of the ARK during the attack. There were also pictures of her old form in a casket and Shadow and Gerald being lugged placed under arrest.

Another image showed the hall outside the chamber. A man stood outside pointing a gun through the door. A quick rewind to the night before, and they found a ring-shaped machine had been activated and the same man came out. "The Chrono-Tron?"

"What's a 'Chrono-Tron?'" asked Cubot.

"It was a prototype time machine made on the ARK, but the idea was abandoned long before it was finished." She paused the footage and zoomed in to get a better image. Though it was blurred the picture was good enough to get a decent profile.

Maria was frightened by the sight of her new found knowledge. She stepped back and almost fell on the floor. Her hands quickly grabbed her vanity from behind, and she held on as though she saw a ghost.

The one who killed her on the ARK… the person who separated her from Shadow for fifty years… who took her from her birth parents forever... It wasn't a G.U.N. soldier. It wasn't a Dark Hunter. It wasn't even Makuta. It was…

Shadow the Hedgehog 2: Part 2 - Chapter 10
Sorry I'm late. Schoolwork, you know? As part of my apology, this week will be a double-feature.

Previous:Shadow the Hedgehog 2: Part 2 - Chapter 9

Next:Shadow The Hedgehog 2: Part 2 - Chapter 11 

Chapter 9

The Egg-pire Strikes Back

The moon was full and almost all the stores were closed. The streets of Knothole surrounded them with silence as they walked down the empty path. Neither one of them spoke, but that didn't matter, as long they were together.

Maria had never been so happy before. It was by far the best night of her life. Dinner and a dance were very fun. But for Shadow to sing just for her… was the most special thing he had ever done for her.

The rest of the world journey almost didn't matter to her. She even almost forgot about Christmas coming in less than a month. All she could think of was how much she loved him. She really wanted to be more than friends with him more than anything, and after tonight she might have a shot.

"Nothing starts until you take action..."

"You're his best friend, and you're super cute. Shadow's the lucky one."

"Unless your willing to take a chance, you'll risk losing him to another... or worse."

"There's nothing to be ashamed of, Maria. Love is a natural thing."

"Besides, if you and Shadow didn't reunite after all this time, it wasn't meant to be."

"If you spend too much time worrying about it, you'll never get it done."

The words of many kept ringing in her mind. So she decided to take a small step forward in their relationship. Carefully, she wrinkled her hand into her friend's, their fingers intertwining. The sudden contact comes as a surprise to the dark hedgehog, but he smiled a little and gave her hand a gentle squeeze.

After a short walk through the woods, they both stopped as they reached the beach. At first, they just stared at the sky and the sea, and then… at each other.

"Maria... you know you're my best friend, right?" asked Shadow.

The girl nodded, a visible hint of pink on her cheeks. "And you're my best friend."

"I would never want anything to get in the way of that."

"Nothing ever could," Maria whispered and leaned a little closer to him.

It was difficult to hold back, and he too leaned closer. "I know…"

"Then... we have nothing to fear..." Instinctively, she started to close her eyes, and she tilted her head a little when she could feel his warm breath on her lips.

"Shadow and Maria..." growled a dark voice. They pulled away and looked toward the source. Beside them, a large humanoid being stood on the waters. "At long last, we face one another..."

The male hedgehog stood between Maria and the unknown figure. "Who are you? And how do you know our names?"

"I am surprised," he replied, "you could have forgotten me so easily, after I slaughtered your people and left you for dead on the ARK."

"You…" Maria gasped with her hands over her mouth.

"Makuta..." Shadow clenched his fists.

"You may have forgotten me, but I will never forget you," Makuta sneered. "You cannot imagine what I have endured to stay alive, fueled by my singular hatred for you both."

"No. We can't. But you shouldn't have come back. We're ready for you this time." Shadow stood, ready to fight.

The being chuckled. "You're either selflessly courageous or laughably foolish… perhaps both. But... I didn't come back alone." Makuta then turned around, his arms thrown up. "Bo amativ, dii yen-zeymah!"

It was as though a curtain had been pulled away when it happened. some form of camoflaging barrier was dispelled, and behind it was a large army of Dark Hunters of many forms and more. Among them, a large number of either Shadow's enemies, Maria's, or both of theirs. Each of them had weapons pointed at the two and other tools.

Makuta then called out the order. Multiple bombs and weapons flew toward them. The G.U.N. agent grabbed his friend and quickly jumped out of the way, but that didn't stop them from their continuous attack. "Strike, brothers! Make the fools pay for our abuse and confinement!"

Once they were a safe distance away, Shadow put Maria down. He could still hear them coming, so he made a decision. "Maria, go to Knothole and get any survivors to safety! I'll hold them back as long as I can!"

Maria hesitated, but she did as instructed. Before she disappeared into the forest, the blonde hedgehog looked back at him. "Shadow! Take this!" She threw her Chaos Emerald at him and then flew as fast as she could.

Shadow stood his ground. While dodging multiple bullets and missiles, he wasn't able to dodge the shockwaves they produced. So even with two Chaos Emeralds, he was knocked down multiple times.

Soon, he was surrounded. They were about to attack when Makuta ordered the cease-fire. He approached Shadow slowly. "And where is Maria?"

Shadow glared at his enemy. "Probably halfway to New Knothole by now. She'll warn the-!"

"The land you speak of is already no more," the robot commander cut in. "My brother-in-arms, the one they call Eggman, has already decimated the area while we distracted you two."

Shadow was shocked. It was all just a diversion. He would have started for Knothole to save Maria, but with one quick throw of the wrist, Makuta punched Shadow in the forehead with all his might. The Ultimate Lifeform fell to the ground, unconscious. With this done, the Dark Kendov removed the ring on Shadow's finger and placed it on his own. 'At last… now only one remains.'

Meanwhile, farther away, the blonde hedgehog was quickly making her way through the dense forest. She didn't look back in the direction of Shadow and the Legion, else she would've changed her mind and disobeyed. Soon, she saw light coming from the forest. Maria was almost there.

She popped out of the bushes. But what she saw made her spine run cold. The entire city was in shambles. Some parts were still burning from the attack, but no one building was left in one piece. Uncle Chuck's diner, the Ring Grotto, Freedom HQ… they were all gone.

She quickly glided through the ruins. "Sonic! Chris! Sally!" she shouted but no one answered. "Mom! Dad! Amy!" Still no response. "Anybody…?" She was all alone. She tried to hold back, but all she could do was cry. They were all gone, and there was nothing she could do about it.

"Maria!" cried a voice from behind. Jack the robot flew in behind her. He was outside of the city before the attack.

"Jack!" She ran over and embraced her bionic buddy. "What happened? Is anyone else still around?"

"You're the only one I've found so far," he replied. "It's Eggman! He– !" He suddenly saw the old man behind her. He wore a mechanical glove and aimed it at them. "Look out!" He pushed her out of the way, and a beam of energy barely missed them. However, the harsh fall injured her wing.

"It's about time we found you, Maria," the old man said.

His cousin turned around in fear. Her heart pounded, and her stomach ached. Tears came to her eyes. "Ivo, what've you done?" she said. "My family… all my friends… you… they're…!"

"Captured," interrupted Eggman. "What you just witnessed was an enhanced teleportation beam. They've all been sent to the Egg Vineyard, a prison made especially for them. It's all over; I've won."

"B-But why not me?"

"Silly girl. You are far too valuable for the Eggman Empire. I created you! You will do what I say, when I say! Got it?"

Maria was silent. Seeing the damage surrounding them, she was also just as scared. She wasn't sure what to do, so the hedgehog girl took a few steps back.

"You still defy me, do you?" Eggman turned to the robot beside her. "Metal Shadow, seize her."

Jack stared angrily. "You ain't the boss of me, Baldy McNosehair! She's my friend, and I-!" Suddenly, he quickly kicked off.

"Wha...?" Maria grew worried. "Jack? JACK?!"

Eggman grinned. "Ah, yes... my soft-reboot defiance kill-switch... I see you forgot to remove that."

When he turned back on, two red optics showed where his green ones once were. "Priority one: capture hedgehog." Jack, now Metal Shadow once more, turned and walked toward Maria coldly, who stepped back in fear. As he adhered the Doctor's word, his eyes kept shifting colors, as does his personality. Jack was fighting Metal Shadow from the inside. "No... Affirmative. No. Neg-! Affirmative! NO!" But Metal Shadow overcame Jack, and he grabbed her by the non-injured wing.

An evil smile came over the Doctor. "Excellent. Now, let's go home." He then blasted Maria and Metal Shadow with the teleportation beam, and then he shot himself.

When the blinding light settled, Maria looked around. She wasn't in the remains of New Knothole anymore. All around her, Sonic, the Freedom Fighters and everyone else hung over her. They were all restrained within glass orbs and bundled up like clusters of grapes.

She also saw that she wasn't the only one outside of a prison cell. Behind her stood the attackers from back at the beach. Maria reached for her Chaos Emerald, but she had forgotten she gave it to Shadow.

Speaking of which, where was he?

Eggman appeared next to her. He grabbed a microphone, and addressed the crowd above. "Ladies and gentlemen, Mobians of all ages," he began, "I want to thank you all for such an entertaining resistance for so many years. It's made creating my glorious empire far more exciting and enjoyable. But in every game, there are winners, and there are losers. And as you know, in my game, I never lose."

"You might wanna double-check the rule book, Ro-butt-nik!" shouted Sonic.

"Zip it, you dolt! Now, I'm gonna demonstrate just what this prison can do. The process will be accelerated, but not less potent so that you'll all be good and terrified before the end. And just to be safe, I'll use my new prime source of power… aside from the Emeralds, of course." He pulled a lever in front of him.

A giant metal claw reached out from below and plucked a cell. Then it pulled it back to in front of the control panel. The glass orb contained a certain G.U.N. agent, who was just coming to his senses. Maria and the other Mobians gasped.

"Wha… Where am I?" asked Shadow.

The old man turned to his henchmen. "Eclipse, would you care to do the honors?"

The alien cackled. "Gladly." He approached the control panel and pulled a switch.

A surge of electricity coursed through his body. The Ultimate Lifeform grunted in pain all the while. Everyone watched, and some looked away in horror. Even Sonic was frightened now.

"Using the finest technology to date," explained he evil genius, "this prison can extract Chaos energy from anything, or anyone, and convert it to power for our battle station, the Dark Egg. Granted many of you have little energy if any at all. But Shadow here accumulates Chaos energy gradually, which in turn fuels his strength and speed. But if too much is extracted from him at once…" Eggman put a finger under his chin and slid it across his neck.

Maria the hedgehog cried as she watched everything, shouting, "Ivo, no! STOP! PLEASE!"

Eggman looked at her with a smirk. "Accept my offer, and I'll give the orders." He turned back toward the black alien. "More power, Eclipse."

Tears of pain formed in the Ultimate Lifeform's eyes. He couldn't break free.

Eclipse, it seemed, enjoyed the most of every second. "Nice try, brother!" he stated. "But Robotnik made this cell just for you. You'll keep enough energy to live, but not enough to escape."

Maria went to jump at the imprisoned Shadow, but as soon as she took a step, something seized her arm. She turned to see a mutant reptilian creature holding her back. Even more frightening: she knew it was... "Espio?!"

"It's your decision:" Eggman reiterated. "Do as I say; Shadow lives, or Shadow dies; you become prisoner!"

"Maria…." choked Shadow through the torture. "Don't listen…"

"Silence!" Eclipse pulled the switch even further.

A hoarse scream arose from Shadow's throat as electricity surged through his body.

The blonde hedgehog couldn't take another second. She fell to Eggman's knees with tears running down her cheeks. "Okay! Okay! I'll do it! I'll do whatever you want!" wept Maria. "Just stop torturing Shadow! Please!"

"That's better… shut it down," Eggman ordered.

"In a second. This is the best part."

"NOW, ECLIPSE!" After that loud shout, the alien angrily shut down the machine. Shadow was silenced and relieved. Eggman smirked as he pulled Maria up to her feet. "Put him back in place… we'll finish him off later."

"What?!" Maria's eyes shot open. "B-But you said…"

"Rule number one: Never trust anyone," the old man said with a grin. "Besides, I'm going to need some means of keeping you in check. Welcome to the Dark Egg Legion!"

As the legion left and dragged a heartbroken Maria along, Rouge watched the whole scenario from above. Tears came to her eyes, because she thought the world was now unprotected because of her.

Later that same night, Maria and Eggman were left alone in her new room. She sat in a chair, her head down. He paced the floor, constantly looking at her.

Simultaneously, he was turning his attention to the monitors of his computer. There was a news broadcast of an attack Eggman ordered. Many Dark Hunters and other members of the Legion were decimating Station Square. The Doctor flipped the channel several times revealing other cities under attack. London, Beiging, Tokyo, Rio de Jinaro, Paris... "You know, I should probably thank you," he said. "What with you distracting that blue loser and the rest of his friends, I've conquered more of the Earth in a few short months than I have in over two decades."

"Why are you doing this, Ivo?" the former human asked. "What do you want from me?"

"Have you ever wondered why I re-created you?" he asked back. "As you can see, I am elderly and past my prime. The more so I become, the more I think about my life's work. I feared that it would eventually fade away with me. The only solution… is an heir. An apprentice." He looked at her. "That's where you fit in. Being a descendant of my grandfather, you are my last living relative. Young, agile, and in your prime, you are the heir of all this. The Princess of the Eggman Empire!"

Maria was surprised at what she had just heard. "You… made me to be a… princess?"

"Yes… yes, I did," Eggman laughed. "And with your help, and with those meddling Freedom Fighters finally out of the picture, I'll not only take over the world… It'll live on after I die!" He then escorted her to her new room so that Maria could get some sleep. "Now, rest up, cousin. You've got much to learn for global domination."

Maria collapsed on the floor, and tears flooded her eyes. The odds were stacked against her and the others. There seemed to be no options. "No," she told herself, "don't break down. I have to stay strong. Shadow will find a way. He will rescue me!"

Suddenly, the hedgehog girl heard a knock on the door. Thinking it was the Doctor, she quickly opened it, but she was wrong... It was Orbot. "Hello. Odd request..." he gestured to a pile of broken parts. "Could I trouble you to reassemble my dismantled cohort?"

Shadow the Hedgehog 2: Part 2 - Chapter 9
Could it be? Eggman has finally won?



Chapter 8

The Gift

Maria walked toward the doorway to Professor Andersen's work-space. It was only a short time before Shadow's big birthday celebration, and she was hoping to get back in time for the presents. They still had to prepare for her "big surprise."

At the door, she walked halfway in and turned around. She scanned to see if anybody, namely Shadow, followed. Seeing that the coast was clear, she closed the door. "It's almost time. Is everything ready, Professor?" She turned around to see that Professor Andersen wasn't where she expected her to be, but someone else. "Grandfather! What're you doing here?"

Gerald sat at a table, his face buried in a book. Then he looked up at his granddaughter. "Come here, Maria," he said, "but don't sit down. This won't take long."

The human girl slowly stepped in. As she approached him, she couldn't help but look at her. For some reason, he seemed unusual. It was almost like he was a different person.

When she was close enough, she popped the obvious question. "Um… What're you reading?"

"This is a rather interesting story about a girl with a dark secret." He handed the book to her. "This seems to be the best part."

She gladly accepted the book and looked at the page. Then she read a few sentences and let out a faint gasp. It was Professor Andersen's logbook. What was worse: the page in particular was on how and why Maria wanted to be a Mobian hedgehog.

Maria was scared stiff. She didn't know whether to speak or run away as fast as possible. Then, Gerald pointed her attention to the door. There stood a woman held up by two of the robot guards. "I'm sorry, Maria…"

Maria looked back at the head of the ARK. "I-I can explain…"

"Silence!" he shouted and left a stinging sensation on her cheek. "I'll put this in my strongest terms: We will re-create you, and you will be a human."

"But Grandfather!"

"No buts!" snapped the old man. "The way things are here and now are how they should and will be! I'm going to remake you, and if you step out of line, I assure you, you are going to wish I hadn't! Do you understand?!"

Maria fell silent. Tears started to water her eyes. Before Gerald could do anything, she turned around and ran out the door.

"Hey! Get back here!" he demanded.

"Leave me alone!" she shouted back.

The heartbroken girl ran straight for her room and locked the door. She fell on her bed and began to cry to her heart's content. Part of her was relieved to be away from everyone, but it felt almost worse. She wanted to be in Shadow's arms, but now more than ever she couldn't be.

After a half-hour of nonstop tears, there was a loud banging against the door loudly. "Go away!" she shouted.

But they just banged louder and harder... so hard it even dented and cracked the door. Maria instantly sat up, tears at a halt. Seconds later, a dark fist burst through the door, tearing against the metal. The sight frightened her to a scream.

Before long, Maria was face to face with three dark alien creatures. She didn't know what they were, and all she could hear from them were three unrecognizable words. "Faaz! Paak! Dinok!"

Before they could come any closer, something black flew through the air and knocked the beasts down like lined-up dominos. It was Shadow. He was attacked earlier and came to Maria's rescue.

"Shadow!" Maria exclaimed. "What's going on? What are those things?"

"No time to find out," the coal hedgehog replied. "We need to get out of here now!"

Shadow put up the kickstand to his motorcycle. After Maria removed her helmet, they began down to a patch that ran along the ocean. While they walked, they enjoyed the beauty of the water.

"It's a nice motorcycle, but why do you have it?" Maria asked. "You can run faster than that."

"G.U.N. protocol requires one troop transport for each squad," he replied.

"Which is why you paint it maintain it yourself, right?"

Shadow smirked slyly. "I really like that bike."

Maria laughed hearing this, and the two continued down the path. She still wasn't sure what to do. Deep down, he was all she ever wanted, but at the same time, it felt wrong. Gerald had given her strict orders to be Shadow's friend and nothing more.

But all the while, she was reminding herself that Gerald technically was not her grandfather anymore. Her closest 'relative,' Sonic, knew about her feeling toward his rival. And instead of telling her to keep away and being a protective family member, he encouraged her to stop worrying and face her fear. Perhaps Shadow did something grand for him once before?

Either way, she was confused… What was she supposed to do? If she made a move, she would either win or lose everything she had with him. But by doing nothing, she was only risking the chance of losing him.

As they walk, faint music start breaking the silence, and the two stop. "That sounds familiar…" Shadow mumbled. As they came closer, it became more clear what music they were playing. "Hey, isn't that…?"

"Yeah. It's that old Christmas album we used to listen to back on the ARK!" Maria replied cheerfully.

The coal Hedgehog pointed to a nearby restaurant. "It sounds like it's coming from over there. Come on!"

They found themselves a table and listened to the music for a while. Shadow looked around. The diner seemed so classic, he felt like he was back in the past once more. The one big difference was the dance floor.

At the counter, Shadow spotted an elderly blue hedgehog, who saw them and smiled. "This must be the diner Sonic mentioned earlier," he chuckled, and when he turned his sight, he was met by a very bright flash. "What the…?"

"Shadow and Maria! What brings you to his side of Knothole?" A crimson and white Mobian fox asked and held out a tape recorder. His companion, a bear, took another picture when Maria turned her head to see what was going on.

"What're you doing? Leave us alone," he requested and took Maria´s hand.

"What do the other Freedom Fighters think about this?" The fox tried again and held the recorder closer to them.

"Hey! Can't you clowns read?!" shouted a voice from behind. The two journalists turn around to see the old Hedgehog. He pointed to a sign by the door.

Paying Customers ONLY
NO Exceptions!

The reporters were silent for a moment. Then the bear spoke. "I'll have a double cheeseburger and a medium cola."

"Get out of here," the hedgehog ordered.

The reporters hesitated but did as told. Halfway there, the fox turned around. "Can we at least have a question answered?"

"OUT!" Charles yelled, and they ran. The old Hedgehog turned around to face the two young ones. "I know I seemed a little rough, but I can't have people like them going higgledy-piggledy and bothering my customers."

"You can't be too rough with that kind of people," Shadow said with a smirk.

Maria giggled softly. "Thanks, Uncle Chuck."

"Think nothing of it, kids. So, can I get you something to eat?" he asked and held up a notebook and pen.

Not long later, the two best friends were enjoying Uncle Chuck's diner together. Maria was snacking on some fries, while Shadow decided to try Chuck's famous chili dog. It only took one bite, and the black hedgehog's mouth almost instantly started watering. "Okay, I gotta pat myself on the back," Shadow said between bites. "Coming here was a pretty good idea."

"When will you realize that all your ideas are good ones?" asked the former human.

"Well, that's funny. Because I thought that not trying to save you on my birthday, trying to crash the ARK into the Earth, and helping Black Doom and his army take over were all terrible ideas."

"Oh, sure. Anything sounds bad when you say it with that attitude." Once Maria said that, the two laughed joyfully. Even though they were still unaware of the other's true feelings, it felt nice to just hang out and have fun like old times. As they enjoyed each other's company, two dishes on vanilla ice cream floated through the air and landed on their table. Maria looked at her friend. "I didn't know you could do that."

"I can't, but I do know someone who can." The black hedgehog leaned over to see a white one coming their way. "It's been a while. Good to see you again."

"Likewise…" The telekinetic looked at the yellow one. "My name is Silver. It's an honor to meet you, Maria," he said and they shook hands.

"How did you know my name?" Maria asked.

"Word travels fast with Sonic. Plus, Blaze read about you guys in her favorite gossip magazine."

"Hey," shouted a voice from behind. A purple cat showed up, her arms crossed. "'Young and Beautiful' isn't a gossip magazine. It's sophisticated literature for young women."

Silver rolled his eyes. Then he looked at Shadow. "Mind if we join you?"

"Sure. Go ahead." Maria invited them. The two grabbed some nearby chairs and sat opposite of Shadow and Maria. "So, what did this 'sophisticated literature' say about us?"

"People have been wondering what's up with the two of you. The latest issue offered a reward to whoever can't find out who you are, Maria, and your relation to Shadow," the cat woman replied.

"Why´s that?" The blonde girl asked.

"Well, he is the Ultimate Lifeform, and the first creature successfully made by science. It makes him a celebrity," Silver replied, and Blaze nodded.

"Plus, a story of two runaway lovers is always a good one,'" The feline explained and laughed a little when the two hedgehogs blush.

"A-actually, were just best friends," Maria explained and Shadow confirmed.

"Told ya," Silver said to Blaze, but smiled a little. It was obvious for him that she was lying. "Hey, Shadow. Why don't we get the four of us some drinks?"

Shadow agreed, and off they went to the soda fountain.

Once they were gone, the purple cat looked at the yellow hedgehog. "Somehow, I have the feeling you lied to us."

Blaze was right. At heart, Maria was a terrible liar. She sighed and decided to come clean. "You're right. I love him, but please don't tell him. I don't want to possibly ruin our friendship."

"And I thought Silver was naïve..." The purple cat shrugged. "Whether it helps or hinders your bond, I can't really say... but I do know this: unless your willing to take a chance, you'll risk losing him to another... or worse."

Maria was moved to say the least. But what Blaze said next pushed her even further.

"Besides, if you and Shadow didn't reunite after all this time, it wasn't meant to be."

Maria smiled and nodded in thanks. She knew Blaze was right. In the distance, the music changed. "Oh, I love this one!" Maria pointed out.

Blaze stood up. "Care to join me?"

"Sure!" She stood up and followed the cat to the dance floor. Their example did not go unnoticed by the other guests, and soon the floor was full. During the song, both Maria and Blaze had a hard time to resist singing along, and soon the rest of the floor does the same.

Shadow and Silver smiled as they watched from their table. "So, that's the girl who saved your life, huh?" asked the white one, and the black one nodded. Silver winked at her, and Shadow glared at him. Then the white one laughed. "That was a test! You do like her!"

A small hint of pink appeared on the GUN agent's cheeks. "Well, I guess I walked into that one," he chuckled.

"Well, don't worry about me. I'll admit, she is beautiful, but my heart belongs to Blaze. In fact…" The white hedgehog then pulled out a small velvet box and revealed a ruby ring.

Shadow smirked. He knew where this was going. "Nice. Be sure to invite us."

"As long as you invite us to your wedding."

"What're you talking about?"

"Time travel. Remember… Grandpa?" Silver actually knew nothing of the near future, but Shadow didn't realize this.

Soon, Chuck took the microphone. "Alright, everyone. We're gonna slow down a little with a request from a young man who wishes to remain anonymous." Then, the music changed to a softer tune.

Silver then came over to the floor, and Blaze curtsied. "May I have this dance, my young gentleman?"

"But of course." Silver put his hands around her waist. Blaze rest hers on his shoulders, and they slowly moved to the music.

Maria turned her attention to her still sitting companion. All she could think of was Sonic saying that she should take action, so that's exactly what she decided to do. She gave him a friendly smile and started dancing his way.

This caused the ebony hedgehog's fur to raise. 'I must be dreaming. It couldn't be this easy,' he thought to himself. 'And yet…'

<da:embed wytiwyg="1" profile="youtube" id="5sdG4jmcQ6s"/ >

Winter snow is falling down, children laughing all around,
Lights are turning on, like a fairy tale come true
Sitting by the fire we made, you're the answer when I prayed,
I would find someone, and baby I found you.

Once she got there, she held out her hand to him. "Do you… want to dance with me?" she asked, somewhat shyly.

But Shadow seemed shy as well. "I would, but… I can't dance," he said sheepishly and looked away.

The blonde hedgehog knew what to do. She put her arms under his and used Chaos Control. In a flash, they were on the dance floor. She caught the coal one and helped him up. "If I can do that, you can dance." She placed his hands on her hips, which caused him to blush. She simply smiled and rested her hands on his shoulders, and slowly they moved to the music.

All I want is to hold you forever.
All I need is you more every day.
You saved my heart from being broken apart.
You gave your love away. I'm thankful every day,
For the gift.

Not long much longer into the song, Maria closed her eyes and rested her head on his. Shadow was slightly nervous through this, at least at first. But then, a series of familiar voices began to echo in his mind…

"Love is said to be the most powerful emotion in life..."

"There are certain unpredictable events that happen for a reason."

"I believe that fate and destiny are two different concepts."

"No matter how selfish the feeling may seem, you can always believe in love..."

"You're both Mobians now. Coincidence?"

"There aren't many second chances in life. Try not to let this one go..."

His biggest reason for hiding from her had dissolved like snow that night. But he also didn't want to just all out tell her. He smiled a little as he found a great way to hint his feelings for her there and then.

"Watching as you softly sleep, what I'd give if I could keep
Just this moment. If only time stood still…
But the colors fade away, and the years will make us grey.
But in my eyes, you'll still be beautiful.

"All I want is to hold you forever.
All I need is you more every day.
You saved my heart from being broken apart.
You gave your love away. I'm thankful everyday
For the gift."

To Maria's great surprise, Shadow started singing along softly in her ear. She smiled more and tightened her grip around him, feeling very privileged and just as emotionally overwhelmed. She knew that music or dancing wasn't his thing.

In the final chorus, they were singing together…

"All I want is to hold you forever.
All I need is you more every day.
You saved my heart from being broken apart.
You gave your love away.
I can't find the words to say.
I'm thankful everyday...
For the gift."

"Thank you, Shadow... I've never been so happy..." Maria whispered in his ear with a small tear in her eye.

Meanwhile, somewhere far away, Doctor Eggman sat in his office and wrote on some papers. His surroundings were a big mess, indicating he had a huge fit of rage.

He sighed, took off his glasses and rubbed his face. He was tired, but for some reason, he couldn't find the peace needed to get a good night sleep.

Robotnik turned his sight to an old photo on the table of his grandfather with Maria and Shadow. "Why did it have to be you?" He mumbled while studying the picture. "I wish I had never turned that infernal machine on…"

"That makes two of us," said a voice from behind. The startled Eggman jumped and saw a familiar white bat merely feet away from him. "Hi. Long time, no see."

The old man quickly pressed a button beside him. "Guards!"

"I know about your little project. How you re-created Maria," the bat said and rested her hands on her hips. The old man froze and slowly lifted his hands from the panel. "Here's how I see it: you want your heiress back, and I want her away from Shadow. I'm willing to make you a deal if you are."

"Why do you want to help us, Rouge?" Eggman asked suspiciously. "I don't suppose you're interested in sharing your precious Shadow with another woman, are you?"

"Regardless of the reason, hear me out," the bat cut in. "I'll tell you where they are, and in turn, you simply take her away. All I ask is that nobody gets hurt… especially not Shadow."

The old man was silent. Then he grinned. "Okay. You've got a deal. I won't send my army to hurt anyone."

"Excellent." Rouge handed him a piece of paper with numbers on them. "Follow these coordinates, and you'll find ol' Knothole City. It's on a single island in the ocean, so it'll be easy to find."

"Knothole?! Of all the places in the world, they choose to bring home here!"

"Now, remember our deal, Doctor…"

"Don't worry. I won't command my army harm anyone," he grinned evilly, "because I'm not in control of my army!"


The old man pressed yet another button. From the doorway behind him, the dark entity appeared. "Makuta! We've found them, and you'll get to destroy a city to find them! Take as much supplies as you deem necessary."

"Excellent," the monster replied. "Come. See your greatest triumph."

"Gladly!" The doctor pressed an assembly button for their forces, stood up and followed.

Worried, Rouge came as well. But as she followed, she came to think of what might happen. 'What am I worried about?' She thought to herself. 'Shadow took on an army of hundreds of thousands and won. This joker would need enough force to outnumber the entire Earth.'

But her relief quickly decimated. Seconds later, the three came into an exterior portion of the ship. There were numerous Earthly battleships, more unearthly transports, and on the ground below were enough forces to blot out the colors of the island.

Eggman handed a microphone to Makuta, but the Kendov threw it aside. He addressed his army with his voice alone. "A new era is rising! Its victory is at hand!" he began. "This day onward, this realm will be shrouded by the shadows of fear! March to all the corners of the Earth! Go now! Corrupt the spirits of man, and destroy their hope!" The army roared with exhalation. Makuta's final word made them shout louder. "TO WAR!"

Rouge watched in utter horror. She couldn't stop such a massive army alone. She had only one weapon... regret.

"What have I done?"

Chapter 7

The Hidden Temple

"Cubot? Cubot, where are you?" Orbot moved through one of the halls, searching for his edged counterpart. Eggman charged the two to clean up the mess that Espio made earlier. But only Orbot was present at that time. Cubot had gone missing.

He noticed an open door to his left and saw the lights within were shut off. The rounded robot ducked under the open door and looked around. "Cubot, are you in here?" He kicked on his optic flashlights and looked around. It seemed to be that there was nothing in there.

But then, something fell from the ceiling. It was a splotch of oil. "My word…" He looked up. Above him was an overhead door with its opening rope left dangling. Orbot pulled the rope and opened the hatch. Several things fell as Orbot shielded himself with his arms. He looked down and one of the objects nearly scared him to the point of it frying his circuits.

Cubot's head.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Death Egg, Makuta and Eclipse were examining their captive chameleon. They were accompanied by a couple of Eggman's robots. Espio slowly reawakened from being unconscious. He saw that the other two were talking. The chameleon banged against the glass chamber he was inside of in order to escape.

"Ah, the enemy awakens, ready to submit to our authority," Eclipse grinned.

"Never!" Espio snarled.

Makuta gazed upon the horizon through the window. He watched as the sun began to disappear, beginning the night. "Soon, the sun will set upon this world, never to rise again. There is nothing to stop this. What have I to fear?"

"The Jul Kendov," replied the chameleon. "I know of the prophecy. When they find the power, and they will, they'll come after you."

"I have an army, I have defeated my brethren, and with my newly reacquired power, I have prevented them from finding it for half of a century."

"That's not the point. There is no point where you come out on top. Maybe you conquer this world, and maybe the rest of the universe as well, but it's all on you. Because He has His way no matter what."

"But you shall not witness it as you are…" Makuta then revealed he already had five Chaos Emeralds. This shocked Espio greatly. "Behold, the power of darkness!"

A black surge of energy coursing into him. Espio yelled in pain. It was too much for him to handle. Soon, his purple scales started to turn dark and ugly. Spikes grew all over his head and down his back. An extra set of arms grew out from under his original ones. His eyes were now fully black with what looked like yellow pupils.

A horrifying shriek came from Espio's voice. The two robots sped between him and the other two. The now corrupted Espio burst through the glass and lunged at the machines, tearing them apart with either his claws or his teeth.

Eclipse was shocked with fear. "That is your plan?! Make the enemy stronger?!"

"He is no longer an enemy," replied Makuta. "Just a savage beast, its only instinct to obey me." He gazed at Espio. "Vuth. Desist."

Espio stopped at once and kneeled before them. "Makuta unahzaal kroniid."

Not too long aterward, Eclipse left. Makuta stayed where he was and looked up. "Koraav fos lost vinalaan. See what I have reclaimed. And this is just the start. Soon, those two mortals will be gone. And the universe of mortals will end."

"You are fooling yourself," a voice replied. "Your destiny has not changed from the start. You shall not have Mundus, and you will not have him."

"You are the fool here. I do not even want him. When I am free of him, I will have my revenge."

Suddenly there was another voice. "Somebody! Anybody!" It was Orbot. In his arms were the pieces of the edged one. "Master Makuta! It's Cubot! He's been disassembled!"

Makuta merely scoffed at him. "Look at you... you who were once so proud. Bo nu ahrk neh daal. Go now, and never return. "

This angered Orbot greatly. But he was too concerned with Cubot to argue back, so he left to find someone else.

Not too far outside of New Knothole, it seemed a peaceful day. In the stillness of the cold forest, snowshoe hares, young deer and other small animals silently treaded the snow. The creek with very few areas frozen allowed for drink as the animals quietly look around seeking any signs of food or danger.

One small doe turned its head to the distance as a sound quickly rose from within. The other animals did the same, hearing the strange noise. But before any of them could find out what it was, two shapes quickly thundered by, causing the wildlife to disperse in cower.

While the blue hedgehog didn't mean to, he couldn't help it. It had been too long since he had felt the wind against his skin. His female counterpart had her wings spread out, and while she was slow on foot, she could keep up with her brother by air.

"You may be a graceful flyer," remarked Sonic, "but I know this forest like the back of my hand!"

Maria didn't respond. She ducked and dodged the branches as they sped past her. A twirl through the branches, though, and she was ahead.

"Heh… not bad. My turn!" The blue hedgehog spun, cracking the branches ahead and bouncing against the trunks. In seconds, he was back in the lead. He looked back to give a taunting wave toward Angel.

But as he turned back, he was met face to face with a low branch. It bowed against his weight, and then shot back into shape. The blue hedgehog was shot back, hitting two different trees before crashing in an open area. Angel landed in front of him as he shook the snow from his head and looked up. "Missed a freckle on your hand?" she asked jokingly. After helping him up, she turned toward the opening and was awe-struck.

There stood what seemed to be a lost palace. Covered with a combination of frost and old wilted vines, it stood about as largely as a four story building.

Sonic glanced in the same direction. "Hm, that's new..."

The winged hedgehog and her brother approached the ancient building. In mere seconds, they were at the mouth of the temple. The was no door, so anybody could go inside.

Sonic glanced at his sister. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"

"That," Maria began, "depends on whether or not you're thinking about exploring the temple that might be full of booby traps which we can either run from or use Chaos Shield to protect ourselves with ease."

"Actually, I was thinking of getting a penini press for Chris' Christmas present," the blue one joked in reply. "But that's a better idea!"

The two began their venture into the temple. Surprisingly, there were no traps for them to dodge as they came into the main chamber. It was actually quite pleasant. The interior looked like a palace made of marble. The light within felt so warm, it was almost as though they were standing outside on a pleasant summer afternoon.

"Oh, my... It's so beautiful!" she said with tears in her eyes.

"I've never seen anything like this," added Sonic. "Who knows? This place is probably older than the Ancient Echidnas." The blue hedgehog gave her sign to follow, and she did. While they ventured though the chamber, they continued to bask in the glory of the ancient building.

As they reached the end of the main chamber, they found some form of mural on the back wall. Images were carved into said wall fron one side of the border to the other, and it almost stretched all across the wall.

Two siblings eyeballed the mural with outstanding curiosity. Neither were sure where this craftsmanship came from, but they were enlightened to find it. When they, both got to the center of the picture, their eyes widened. The canter had a monstrous reptilian beast with seven heads. Each head was directed toward a center point: two humanoid beings that look ready to fight.

"How is that possible?" asked Sonic in awe to his sister. "Those two look just like you and Shadow!"

Her sister glanced down. Below the image, there was some form of written message carved into the wall. She placed a hand onto the writing, and the ring on it began to pulse light. How it came to be remained a mystery, but she was somehow able to read the message.

"On the Year of Gold, the man of dark and the woman of light will descend to and travel the realm below their home land. These chosen, the Protectors of Man, two shall search for the True Power of the Great Spirit. And when the hearts of dark and light become one, the True Power will blossom, and even death will be overcome."

"I've heard of that prophecy." Then, Sonic stood silently for a short time. "Wait a minute…"

After they left the temple, as they walked back to New Knothole, Maria told Sonic as much as he could take. He took it surprisingly well, despite knowing how long they have been searching. "And all this time, I thought it was just because you had a crush on Shadow."

"How did you know about my feelings for him?"

"Because you just asked me, Poindexter."

Maria blushed. It was getting harder for her to keep it a secret with every passing week.

"This probably isn't my business, but I take it you haven't told him?"

Maria stopped moving, and so did he. "How can I…? Shadow's always treated me like a sister, like you treat me. If I tell him how I feel, and if he doesn't feel the same, it could ruin everything. But if I don't, he might fall for someone else eventually, or he might find out and get mad for me not telling him... Either way, I lose... What can I do?"

Her brother smirked, knowing just what to do. He walked back to her and grabbed her arm without warning.


He started to run with her, slowly building up his speed.

"Sonic, wait!" she shouted. "I can't run that fast!"

"Don't worry!" he assured her. "Speed is in your blood!"

They ran alongside each other, holding hands. It wasn't Sonic Speed, but it was still faster than normal. Maria started to enjoy the thrill. The feeling of speed always did make her feel happy and free.

Eventually, they came back to Freedom HQ. They sat down by the entrance for a moment so that she could catch her breath. "Feels great, doesn't it?" Sonic asked as she sat next to him.

"Yes," she breathed. "I-I didn't know I could run so fast..."

"Nothing starts until you take action," said Sonic. "If you spend too much time worrying about it, you'll never get it done." He helped her back up to her feet, and they entered the Great Oak Slide and slid into the base.

At the bottom of the slide, they met up with Shadow and Rouge, who both just returned from a mission. "Hey, guys. You'll never guess what Sonic and I found." Maria was just about start telling them about it when she noticed something with Shadow. "You're hurt!"

The black hedgehog looked at his body. On his upper arm was a gash from where he had been shot. "what, this? It's nothing."

"Don't say that." Maria tended to Shadow's wound. In the process, she accidentally knocked his Chaos Emerald onto the ground. She picked it up and stared at it for a second. 'I wonder…' the hedgehog girl held the Emeralds with both hands over her black friend.

"What're you doing?"

Maria gave her friend a signal to keep quiet. She then closed her eyes and focused. "Chaos Restore..." she said softly.

The G.U.N. agent felt a tingling sensation flow within his body. It felt as though he was being tickled all over. When the feeling diminished, Shadow looked down at his body. No bruise, no bleeding… he was as healthy as a horse. Shadow whistled in astonishment. "I gotta remember that one…"

Rouge grew slightly upset. As much as she wanted to deny it, she had been jealous of the blonde hedgehog since her return.

Then, there was the sound of a soft, low-tone gurgling. It sounded like it came from Maria.

"Maria, was that you?" Shadow chuckled.

"I guess I'm getting a little hungry... Why do you ask?" she replied.

"Well, it's been awhile since we got to hang out together... you know, like way back when, so... I was thinking maybe we could... go out for dinner tonight."

"Out? You mean just us two?"

"If you want to, of course."

Maria was slightly surprised, but she still smiled. "I'd love to," she said sweetly.

Sonic then gave Shadow a friendly bump. "You know, my Uncle Chuck owns a diner on the other side of the city. Freedom Fighters get their first meal free."

Shadow smirked. "I'll think about it. Thanks." He then left for his motorcycle, and Maria followed.

Rouge shrugged and turned to Sonic. "Alright, tell me anything: What does Blondie have that I don't?" she asked as she left.

Much later, the bat sat on an old log, staring down at the Lake of Rings. At that moment, a gold Ring appeared from the waters. She watched as the ripples patted against the shore. While the sound of water was somewhat soothing, she couldn't stop thinking of losing Shadow to Maria.

As she was lost in thought, she didn't hear the sound of footsteps approach. It was Antoine. He had come by to collect the Ring, as was his occasional job. But of course, the Ring was not the only thing he found. "Ah, I know zat face," he said to her. "Tis ze face zat says 'ze love of your life is falling for a fuel,' no?"

Rouge refrained from saying anything about it. Though she didn't want to admit it, he was right. Although, she did stare at the Mobian coyote in confusion. "A fuel?"

"Yes, a fuel. A fuel! Why is zis world so difficulty to understand?!" asked the coyote. "A fuel is a stupid person," he finally explained.

"Oh! You mean a 'fool.'"

Antoine sighed arrogantly. "Zat is what I said. 'A fuel…'" As he collected the Ring from the lake, he continued to speak. "Y'know, I was like you once. I was, how you say... 'head over heels' for someone who felt zat way to who I thought was a fuel. I tried getting between zem, but ze harder I tried, it seemed, ze worse it became. But zen, zere was Bunnie... we were just teammates back zen, but look where we are now." He then showed her his wedding ring.

Despite not looking at the coyote this whole time, every word seemed to cling to Rouge.

"Ze point is," Antoine continued, "Whoever zis person is you feel for... perhaps it is not meant to be. But being selfish and trying to pull zem apart will only make things worse. Be careful what you think should be done." With that said, he left.

Rouge shrugged crossed her arms around her front. 'Great! Being lectured in morally by a coyote with a bad French accent!' she thought to herself. 'He can speak for himself. I'll show him... all of them. I'm not gonna lose Shadow to Blondie Robotnik...'

Her eyes widened at the thought of the word "Robotnik." Then a devious plan came over her. She knew exactly what to do, and off she went.


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Harvey Who
United States

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