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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.

Chapter 6

Scourge of the Night

Later that same evening, Shadow made his way down a marketplace. He heard from Nicole that it was the fastest way to get to Sonic's house. Surprisingly, a few of the stores were still open.

All the while, Shadow thought of how he should tell her about this. It seemed to be on the same level with him confessing his feelings for her, which he never succeeded in. He rubbed his eyelids, frustrated with himself.

Suddenly, the coal Mobian bumped into someone... Rotor the Walrus. "Oh, sorry. I didn't see you coming."

"That's alright. I-!" Then the walrus saw who he bumped into. "Oh, hey... You're Shadow, right? What brings you to this side of town?"

"I was just passing through. I need to see someone in the neighborhood ahead."

"You mean Mariah? Or was it Maria?"

The coal hedgehog chuckled. "You can call her Angel if you want. A number of her friends do."

"Well, it's getting close to Christmas. Maybe you should get something for her if you haven't already." With that said, Rotor left for home.

Although the walrus wasn't serious, Shadow couldn't help but think about what Rotor said. 'He might be onto something.' As he thought that, he passed by a store. Something in the window stood out to him. A sterling silver necklace. It had a blue crystal heart embedded in silver as well. 'Hmmm…'

The temptation was strong and the flesh was weak that night. He walked in. A Mobian wolf stood behind the counter. "Oh, a customer," he exclaimed. "Welcome to T. W. Barker's. How can I help you, sir?" he asked.

Shadow pointed behind him. "That necklace in the window... is that for sale?"

The owner grinned. "Ah, a special prize for you, my friend. I believe five thousand Rings is a fair price."

"Five thousand?!" Shadow was shocked. "I just wanted the necklace, not the entire store!"

"I know that, but there is a special tale behind that necklace," the broker replied. "According to legend, the ancient Echidna Guardian, Tikal, was given this necklace by the prince of the Nocturnus Clan. It was a forbidden love which ended in a secret marriage before the Master Emerald. The Emerald's power influenced the necklace in its presence that day. It is said that if the giver and the receiver are truly in love with one another, the crystal heart would glow like the stars in the night sky."

Shadow raised an eyebrow. "Is that so?"

"That's how the legend went. Love is said to be a powerful feeling, you know. But alas, nobody since then has ever seen the necklace glow."

The ebony hedgehog stood silently, processing all he had been told. Then, he chuckled. If the wolf was trying to persuade him into a con… it didn't work. "You know, my friend can tell better lies than you. And she's lousy."

"Whoa, it isn't a lie. That there's the necklace of the legend."

"If that's really the case, the necklace should be in a museum, not a pawnshop. That either tells me you're a thief, a lousy con artist, or both."

"Alright, Mr. Bargain," Barker said in an annoyed tone. "Five hundred Rings, and that's my final offer."

"Deal." He laid the money down, and in turn, he was given the necklace in a black velvet box.

"Would you like it giftwrapped? It's free."

Soon, he made his way to the Hedgehog home. At the door, Jules greeted them warmly. After saying their hellos and getting inside, Shadow was the first to talk. "First of all, thank you for answering the door at such a late hour. I realize what an inconvinience this must be-!"

"Don't worry about it. I don't sleep as a Robian avbnyway." Interrupted the father of the Blue Blur.

"Oh... okay... Now, onto my main point. Is Maria awake? I need to talk to her."

Jules pointed to the couch. There, the blonde hedgehog lay asleep.

"Is she okay?" he asked.

"She's fine," Jules replied. "She was a bit worn out from shopping with her mother and the girls, so after she put her clothes away, she fell asleep watching TV."

Shadow thought for a moment, and he decided he would wait until tomorrow to tell her. He was just about to leave when Jules stopped him.

"Why don't you stay for the night?" he offered. "I heard there's a chance of another cold front tonight." The black and red hedgehog gladly accepted his offer. Why turn down his hospitality, he thought.

Shadow watched as Maria's adoptive father left to prepare the guest room. He glanced at his sleeping friend on the couch. She seemed so cute while she slept. Then the black hedgehog could also hear Maria sleep-talking.

She softly muttered his name with a smile. It was quiet, but it was clear enough for him to hear it, and it made him blush. Whether dream or reality, it felt comforting to know that she was thinking of him.

The G.U.N. agent covered her with a blanket to prevent her from becoming too cold. He then turned out the lights, and he started to leave for the guest room. But out on the yard, there arose such a clatter. Shadow froze on the spot to see what was the matter.

The window creaked open, and a green hedgehog in a black leather jacket crawled inside. He snickered quietly as he saw the blonde Mobian asleep on the couch. "This'll be too easy…"

Suddenly the green one heard a voice. "Good evening. Scourge, isn't it?"

He was shocked to say the least that somebody in here knew his name. In the darkness, he spotted a silhouette with two bright spots, which he believed to be the eyes, looking at him. "Long time no see, Sonic," he hissed.

"If I had a penny for every time I was mistaken for him…" the being turned on a lamp, revealing its form.

Scourge chuckled as he saw who it was. "Ah, so that would make you Shadow. Hey there, 'Faker.'"

"Given how late it is, I'm guessing this isn't a cordial visit."

"I'm just here to collect the blonde chick for ransom. Now, step aside, and leave me to my business."

Shadow sighed as he sat on the easy chair. "You know, that 'chick' gave up her life to save mine."

Scourge laughed. "Want her to be the queen or something?"

"No. I just want you to understand that I will do what it takes to keep her safe… even if that means returning the favor."

"Cute. The wittle bwack hedgehog pwetending he's not afwaid of me."

"What's to fear? Your world is the opposite of Sonic's, right?"

"In some ways, but–"

"His world is full of good men and women, who work together for a brighter future." Shadow pointed at Scourge and continued, "That tells me your world is full of cowards, each of them doing their part to ruin their world. That's why you don't scare me. Because I know, at your core… you are a coward, too."

"Coward?!" Scourge snarled. He pointed at the crown upon his head. "I conquered a planet on my own, and I'm ruling it with an iron fist! How is that cowardice?!"

"You brought a different brand of ruination," Shadow replied silently.

The green one sneered at the black one. "Try again, old-timer. On my world, we had a time called the 'Great Peace'. My dad was a part of that. He brought everyone together in one big group-hug." He held a hand up and clenched his fist. "Ten years later, everything had stagnated and broke apart. I didn't ruin the world. I simply woke it up!"

"Is that your answer to everything? Violent takeover and anarchy?"

"Well, not really 'anarchy' since everyone bows to me." He crossed his arms, grinning evilly. "Since you seem so hung up on the correlations, how do you like this one: Sonic's dad isn't really a Mobian anymore. Blondie's dad technically isn't her dad. My dad... simply isn't."

Shadow looked away from the irritating hedgehog. "Stop trying to be scary. That falls short when the 'Mighty, World-Conquering King' has to sneak in during the middle of the night to get a leg up on my friend," he said with a strong hint of anger.

Scourge growled at him, and he jumped, standing on his lap. "Little Boy Blue is really quite good at defeating his foes!" He leaned in closer. "Want to see what the real me can do?"

Shadow felt anger overflow inside him. He shoved Scourge in the chest, causing him to fall onto the floor. "You are not the real Sonic." He glared down at the selfish hedgehog. "Unlike you, he's a mature adult who acts with his heart. A pure and honest hero, who would risk his life to save those he loves. Even I'm jealous of him sometimes."

Scourge pushed himself back toward the window as Shadow moved towards him.

"And while you may not care about losing your family, I'm certain the real Sonic will be very upset to lose the sister he only had for a few short months. Do you want that burden on your shoulders, too?" he asked angrily.

The green hedgehog was on the verge of crying. Sweat dripped down his face and he pushed himself onto the window sill. He turned and whimpered, tears streaming down his face. "J-just a bunch of empty words…" He sobbed silently and he climbed back out the window. "Our worlds aren't so different after all…"

Shadow sighed as he watched the enemy run off into the darkness. Hopefully, the bully had learned his lesson, and if not... nothing in the universe could prevent Shadow from protecting his friend. As he closed the window Scourge left open, Shadow heard an odd murmur. He turned around to realize it was Maria. She was tossing and turning, the faint sound of horrified screams slowly growing louder.

He quickly approached her and shook her gently. "Maria. Maria! Wake up!"

"No! Stay away from me!" she cried as she awoke frantically looking around. She spotted Shadow.

"It's okay, Maria," he told her. "Please, calm down."

But Maria couldn't relax. She panted in fear before she responded. "I saw it… The world was destroyed! Chaos Emeralds… millions of them… flying right toward me…!"

Shadow tried shushing her quietly. "It's alright. It was just a bad dream."

"N-No… it wasn't," she replied, rendering her friend speechless. "Listen. I have something important to tell you, and I should've told you months ago."

"What is it?" he asked. The hedgehog girl took off one of her gloves, and Shadow gazed in wonder. 'She knows...'

On her hand was a glowing crystal ring. "This ring is supposed to control all the Chaos Emeralds in the universe. You and I are tasked to guard this ring and find something called 'Ziilot Suleyk,' or 'True Ultimate Power.' We even have to fight a creature bent on ruling the universe," She then let out a sniffle. "I know it sounds crazy. You just have to let me prove myself, and–!"

"You've nothing to prove," Shadow cut in. He took his glove off to show a ring that looked exactly like hers. "I believe you."

"There's… two of them?" Shadow nodded. After he had made his explanation, she lowered her head, ready to embrace the worst. Unexpectedly, he heard a soft whimper come from her. Maria was the first to speak. "I… I'm scared."

"Scared? Of what?"

"I'm scared for us… for all of us," she replied. "What if I were to die before then?"

"You won't." Shadow answered.

"How can you be so sure? What… what if…?"

"Maria," he jumped in and took her hands into his. This silenced her. "I made a promise to myself, after I found out you were alive. I failed to protect you once before... I'm not letting that happen ever again. Either way, I'm confident that we will save the universe, no matter what."

"Shadow…" she breathed silently. Without warning, she wrapped her arms around him, not wanting to let go. "Thank you, Shadow... Thank you so much…"

The black hedgehog returned the embrace and held her tight. As he tried to comfort her, his concerned feeling turned into something he only felt around Maria. 'Is it wrong to be in love with my best friend?' he thought to himself. 'I guess the only thing is I don't know if the feeling is mutual.'

Once he thought that she was asleep once more, he gently had her lay back down then started to walk away… until she grabbed his hand. "Shadow? Could you… stay with me? For a little longer?" she asked with an innocent smile on her face.

Shadow could see his friend was still a little traumatized. "Okay…" After kicking off his shoes, he snuggled under the blanket with Maria. And although she was scared just minutes earlier, she soon found herself drifting off into a peaceful slumber in the arms of her one true love.

The door closed nearby, and Sonic turned away with a smirk. "Too easy…"

Chapter 5

The Warning

It was a dark and cold night. A light blizzard slowly began to sweep over the city. Two figures wearing hooded robes forged through the white storm. Soon, they found it… a bar where they would meet their rendezvous.

The shorter one knocked on the door. A smaller sliding door opened on it, and two eyes peered through. "Password?" asked a rusty voice.

"Doom and gloom," the taller one replied in a dark tone. The being opened the door from his side and allowed the two to enter. They scanned the room to see if they would find anything suspicious. But the bar was nothing but. From the seedy atmosphere to the menacing eyes of patrons within.

The bar was frequented by Mobians and Robians, both partial and full. None of them defected into the Kingdom of Knothole. Instead, they keep to themselves, not wanting to be involved, hoping the evil despot will not notice them.

Soon, they find their contact… another hooded robe in a booth in the far corner. The two slowly approached the booth, their senses at full alert. The shorter one tapped the shoulder of the one sitting down, and spoke, asking, "What did the snowman say to the other snowman?"

The man in the seat turned and revealed his red echidna face. "Ice to see you," he replied.

The short one removed his hood. "My name is Hog. Hedge Hog, agent of G.U.N." Shadow smirked. He had never done a role play before. "…and this is my colleague, Agent Thorn."

Chris Thorndyke unhooded himself as well. "State your code name and business," he said, still in character.

"I have none. It's just Knuckles…"

The cyborg human sighed. "C'mon, Knuckles. You got to make it a little fun," he said in his normal voice. "The moment we walked in here, we were pretending to be undercover agents, and that this was to collect top secret information."

"Well, stick around," the red one replied. "I had to bring work on vacation with me."

"What do you mean?" Shadow asked.

"Vector and Charmy are meeting us here. They told me they had to tell us something important."

"And what about Espio?"

"He's on a mission behind enemy lines. Said he'd be back by tomorrow night."

"Alone?" Chris asked.

"You know Espio… he thinks he can do anything."

Their reptilian friend was rightfully boastful. Even when he was face to face with the enemy, he could go unseen. Being a Mobian chameleon, he could climb any surface and appear invisible to the rest of the world. It does not, however, make him invulnerable.

But what was he doing aboard the Dark Egg? What secret does he seek to uncover? And should he find any secrets, what would he do with them?

As he made his way toward his target location, he took cover in a corridor rarely visited by Badniks. He peeked out the door to watch as a pair of Dark Hunters patroled the hallway. He backed away slowly to hide in the shadows when he bumped into something. Espio turned quickly, his shurikens at the ready. "What...? What is this?"

There stood a large machine. It was shaped like a large gold ring with wires all over. Many pieces were either disconnected or forcefully torn off. In front of it was a control panel covered in a tghick layer of dust. The chameleon brushed it away to see the name of the device. "The Chrono-Tron... Prototype time portal... patent pending Space Colony ARK... Must've been torn apart for Eggman's robot horde." He decided to forge on.

Back at the bar, Vector and Charmy finally appear. "Sorry we're late," the latter said. "The snowstorm really held us back."

"I understand. We had troubles ourselves," Shadow replied.

After they say down, Chris asked them what they needed to tell them. Vector looked nervously at Shadow, saying, "I'm glad you're here, Shadow... It's about Maria."

The ebony Mobian shrugged. "I already told you: we're not in a romantic relationship!"

"It's more complicated than that," the crocodile said back. This caught the black hedgehog's attention. "The G.U.N. has issued a warrant for a potential serial killer. The freak's targets are young human girls. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and ironically, the same first name… Maria."

The three being spoken looked to each other in worry. Those were all of Maria's traits. The only difference was that their Maria has now a hedgehog.

Vector continued to issue the dilemma. "In the past couple of months, there have been five different assassinations, each on a different continent. At first, they thought those were coincidental, but the most recent one came with what looks like a threat." He turned to the bee beside him. "Charmy, show them."

The little one pulled out a picture and showed it to the G.U.N. agent. On it were strange markings carved onto a stone wall. One would easily tell it was recent because of the pieces of rubble on the ground around the dead body. "They're still trying to decipher the message." the bee said.

Chris and Knuckles each took a quick look as well. The red one's eyes widened. "Vokulot fen alok einzuk. Joore kosiir," he said. "It's a warning."

"You know this language?" Shadow asked.

Knuckles nodded. "It's the ancient tongue of the Guardians. And if I'm reading this correctly, it says, 'The great evil will rise again. Mortals beware.'"

Silence filled the small booth. Nobody spoke, and nobody moved. Nobody from other tables seemed to notice.

"So," Chris broke the silence, "do you know these murderers?"

"Can't say that I do," the red one replied. "But whoever they are, they're certain that the lost warriors of the prophecy really exist."

"What warriors?" Vector asked.

"What prophecy?" Charmy added.

"Come with me," he told them. "I'll explain everything when we get to the Knothole library." So the red Echidna led the others out of the bar…

Meanwhile, the Freedom Fighter chameleon made it to Eggman's main computer. A seemingly infinite source of the world's knowledge, and the only one for Eggman's latest plots... It also contained documents nobody, not even Eggman, knew existed.

Espio plugged in a small device, and pressed a small button. The device did its thing, and the computer allowed him in. "Alright, Doctor, let's see what bones you have in your closet," he said to himself. He clicked on a small address bar near the top of the screen and typed in the word, 'Maria.' "Why did you bring her back?"

Many documents appeared, most of which dated back to the days of the ARK in its prime. He searched through carefully, but no useful information was discovered. Near the end of his search, he found a lone folder containing only two video files. One was addressed to Shadow, the other to Maria. Aroused with curiosity, he clicked on the first of the two.

An old man appeared on the screen. It was Professor Gerald Robotnik, Eggman's and Maria's grandfather. He was in what appeared to be a hospital bed, and he made multiple coughing noises. "Hello, Shadow," he began. "Sorry. I'ma bit under the weather. They say I'll be fine, but I wanted to record this just to be safe." He coughed again before he continued. "Anyway, we've found a way to save Maria. Professor Andersen gave her a Soul Catcher, a stone that can undo death. And soon, we'll be able to re-create her with science."

Espio sighed. He already knew this story. He was just about to click out when Gerald spoke again.

"But that's not why I made this... I've accidentally found out that Maria wants to be remade as a hedgehog, like you. This is because… her feelings for you are the same as yours for her." Gerald smiled in a fatherly way. "Do both of yourselves a favor: when she's remade, go to her, look her in the eye, and tell her how you fell. Live the happy life you always wanted. That's all I want when I move on to the next life… and remember what I said. Love is the most powerful emotion in life. Always believe in it." With that said, the video reached its end.

Espio rubbed his chin, suspiciously. "Why would you hide this, Doctor?" He plugged in a flash drive and copied the two documents onto it. "In any case, I think those two should see these…" he smiled.

As he began to pack up and escape, he meant to click a close button, but instead clicked into another document. It quickly showed him not Eggman's… but Makuta's plan.

A complete, horrifying, unstoppable plan… "Oh, no…"

Despite all his training, he panicked and ran out the door, leaving his documents behind. His panic was quickly noticed by a Dark Hunter, which would cost him dearly.

But nobody in New Knothole would know that, would they? At the public library, Knuckles collected some books old enough to belong to Roman Emperors. As he explained, he showed them multiple visual images.

"It's an ancient foretelling from my ancestors," Knuckles began. "The great evil mentioned earlier is known by us Echidnas as the 'Exiled One.' He is the only known member of an immortal race, collectively called the Kendov. Despite their superior power, the Kendov were a peaceful folk, devoted to protecting the universe... except for the Exiled One, who schemed to reshape creation in his image. When the others found out, they imprisoned him in the bowels of this planet, hence his name."

Shadow seemed nervous, and for good reason. He knew where this was going.

"He grows stronger as we speak, seeking only to conquer all, but legend foretells of his defeat. Our only hope lies in the hands of a man and a woman, whom united are known as–"

"The Jul Kendov," Shadow cut in. "These chosen two shall descend from a city in the heavens in search of the True Power of the Great Spirit, and through it, fair Mundus shall be freed from the great evil."

This silenced the group once more, but more briefly this time. "How did you know that?" Knuckles asked in awe.

"I met the Kendov earlier this year. I know this because…" the Ultimate Lifeform almost started to choke in his fear. "Maria and I are the Jul Kendov."

Everyone was understandably shocked. Shadow then began to tell his friends everything he knew on the subject. He told them how Makuta tried to kill them on the ARK, but instead, merely separated them. He also told them of how Maria and Shadow were reunited after exactly fifty years since her supposed death, just as it was foretold.

Then he turned to the human beside him. "You were right, Chris. Maria was meant to return, but not in the way you thought. It's not because fate wants us together… it's because fate needs us together. We're the only hope that stands between everything and total destruction."

"Does Maria know about this?" Chris replied.

Shadow shook his head. "…or at least I don't think she does. I didn't want to tell her, but I've secretly been looking for this 'true ultimate power' while I am away on my missions. Still no luck… and I'm beginning to think we'll run out of time. It's starting to seem hopeless…"

"Nonsense!" the crocodile blurted out. "Shadow, did you give up when Biolizard tried to destroy the world with the ARK?"

"N-No…" Shadow replied.

"Vector's right," Charmy added. "And did you give up when those creepy aliens attacked and tried to use you against us?"


"And did you give up when Eclipse tried to pull you back to the dark side?" Knuckles included.

"No, I didn't!" Shadow banged his fist against the table.

"Right," Chris added. "You were made from one of the greatest threats we ever knew, yet you defied them to save us. And Maria stared death in the face and came back. All you've been through, and you're still here. You can find the power, and you can save the universe."

Shadow smiled. With friends like these, he almost forgot why he thought people feared him. "You're right. We can, and we will!" He then stood up and headed for the door.

"Where're you going?" Knuckles asked.

"To Sonic's house," he replied. "If Maria doesn't know about the prophecy, she needs to." Off he went, to perhaps the most important decision he made thus far.

His friends were pleased. The Shadow they once knew was back, ready to save the world… all worlds, and they were proud to have helped get his hope and perseverance back.

Perhaps Espio would think the same… if he wasn't running for his life, fighting Dark Hunters, that is. But it serves him right.

Soon, the enemy creatures had chased him into a corner. The chameleon pressed his back against it, pulling out his only weapon, throwing stars. But he didn't have enough to fend off this many. They didn't open fire upon him, much to the spy's surprise, but they were ready to do so.

Then the exiled Kendov emerged from the crowd. It held out its hand, and an orb of energy emerged from it.

Sweat dropped from Espio's brow. He panted more out of exhaustion than fear. "I've seen your plan… I know what you're going to do," he said. "It will never work! They will stop you! They will save us all!"

Makuta laughed. "You mustn't have read the plan clearly..." A blast came from the creature's arm. It engulfed the Mobian's entire body, and he disappeared. "They don't stand a chance..."

Chapter 4

My Daddy, Unit One

Later, the hedgehog brought their newest member to their home. Sonic carried a sleeping Muttski in his arms. Once they got there, Sonic yawned. "If it's all the same with you guys, I think Muttski and I gonna turn in for the night," he said and left for his room.

His mother directed Maria to a nearby door, and she followed. Inside was a small cozy bedroom with a celestial bed that dominated the room and a small bathroom. It had an old fashioned touch, and everything was new and well kept. "I'll need to speak with Nicole about making your room tomorrow. Until then, you can have the guest room, okay?" the purple hedgehog asked in a motherly tone.

"This'll do. Thank you," replied Maria.

As the two unpacked her luggage, Bernadette found something at the bottom of Maria's bag. It was a yellow cat toy with a blue bow. She turned to the blonde hedgehog curiously. "Not to lecture you or anything, but aren't you a little old to have these kinds of toys?"

Maria looked at the plush cat, and then back at her so-called mother. "It's more of a memento of my birth parents. It was the only gift I remember getting from them... before…" She paused, because she was uncertain of how to phrase it.

"Before what, dear?"

The blonde hedgehog sighed. "Let's just say I didn't know them very well."

As a mother normally would, the purple hedgehog could easily tell she wasn't very happy with this. But she still wanted to comfort her heart. She took Maria's hands into her own. "Neither did Muttski," she began. "His parent's died in a fire when he was only seven. Then, like you, Sonic took him in… well, we all did. We became the family he never had growing up, and we'll do the same for you. I promise."

Maria smiled. "I know you will. Thanks, Mom." She was not going to get used to saying that any time soon.

After a quick hug, Bernadette started heading for the door. "Take as much time as you need to get settled. If you need anything, our room is just down the hall," she said to her and closed the door. "Good night… my daughter."

The blonde hedgehog slipped into her sleepers, and she tiredly crawled into bed. She stared out into the starry night, counting the blessings she had been given since her death. 'A second chance at life, a warm home, a caring family, plenty of friends… What more could a girl ask for?' She yawned and slowly drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, small white flakes drifted from the sky to the ground. From Castle Acorn to residential abode, the land was colored with snow. Maria was sleeping lightly, dreaming about her hero in black and red. She smiled in her sleep, and she hugged her pillow. Suddenly, there was the sound of a loud crash from downstairs. She woke up with a shock and looked around timorously.

She quickly went down to the living room and saw something unexpected. Some of the Hedgehog family was up and running, but that was not what got her attention. She looked around to see wreaths on the windows, garland on the banisters, and stockings over the fireplace. They had been decorating while she was asleep.

Also, Maria could see that the crash came from a glass bowl Sonic had dropped. The blue hedgehog looked over to see her sister, and he was disappointed. "Aw, man! So much for the surprise…"

"What are you guys doing?" asked Maria.

"We were decorating the house. Since it is your first Christmas outside of the ARK, we wanted to surprise you."

"Well, I am definitely surprised." Maria giggled. "You didn't decorate the tree without me, did you?"

"Nope," Bernadette jumped in. "Your Uncle Charles and Muttski are out getting one as we speak." Then there was a knock on the door. "I bet that's them."

The door opened, and there stood the two. Behind them was a tree that couldn't easily fit through the door. "Mind giving your uncle a hand? This is always the tricky part."

"Here. Allow me." Maria then stepped over and got a firm grip on the trunk of the tree. "Chaos Control!" With a bright flash, she, Charles and the tree were in the house.

"Did I forget to mention she could do that?" Sonic asked cheekily.

"That would've been good to know," Uncle Chuck said in a dizzy tone.

After he had sat down for a little bit, they began opening boxes and pulling out the decorations for the tree. Sonic was quick (as expected) to grab the tinsel and spin it around the pine branches. Uncle Chuck and Muttski started wiring the lights. And the girls put on the ornaments one by one.

After about two minutes of decorating, Sonic noticed something. "Hey, where's Dad?"

The blonde hedgehog looked over and saw a silhouette of a hedgehog in the corridor. "I think he's in the kitchen. I'll get him." And so she went to do so. Upon entrance, though, there was yet another surprise, this one more disturbing.

There, she saw Jules wrapping part of his arm up with some silver tape. Around him were a few tools and gadgets. He noticed her and chuckled in embarrassment. "Hey there…" He looked at his arm. "As soon as you reach the age when your warranty expires, you start falling apart. Pretty soon, there's gonna be more duct tape than me."

"Here. Let me help." Maria approached her adoptive father and grabbed a socket wrench. She tightened the loose bolts and secured his arm again. Once, she was finished, she became curious and said, "Dad? Can I ask you something?" But before she could say anymore…

"Let me guess. You want to know how I became a Robian, don't you?" Jules asked.

"N-no. I was gonna ask how…" she paused and looked confused. "Robian?"

"Roboticized Mobian. You know, it's a play on words."

"Oh… well, actually, that was what I was gonna ask you."

"Alright then…" the metal father then sat down, and Maria sat next to him. "Hmmm… where to begin?" he thought aloud, then he knew where the story should start. "Long ago, on Mobius, we had a time called the Great War, a five-year conflict between us Mobians and the Overlanders. I was on the front lines back in the day, your Uncle Chuck was a medical officer, and your mother was raising our seven-year-old Sonic."

"Oh, yeah," his 'daughter' replied. "Sonic told me a bit about that. Weren't 'Overlanders' what you called humans back then?"

"That's right," he replied. "Anyway, during one of my missions to save some comrades, I was shot from behind by an enemy trooper. I survived…barely, but I was badly wounded. Charles did all he could to save me, but he was running out of resources and time. Soon, he was down to one last option…"

"The Roboticizer… the medical revolution made by humans."

"Oh, it would've been, if it wasn't for what happened next…"

In his laboratory, Charles Hedgehog was checking the insides and outs of the machine. He wanted to make sure the Roboticizer was ready, because he didn't want to lose his brother. As he was finishing up, a Mobian duck came in. He was pushing a wheelchair seating a dying hedgehog man. Behind them, his wife and son followed. The elder hedgehog stopped what he was doing and helped the duck load him into the machine.

Once the glass chamber was brought down, the child Sonic came up to it. "Be careful, Daddy."

Bernadette turned to her brother-in-law. "Charles, are you sure this will work? I don't want to be a widow."

"Not to worry, Bernie," he replied. "I've triple-checked the blueprints and scanned to ensure every piece was in place. I also made a few tests in advance. All my calculations say that this will be affective. When it works, you'll have your husband back."

The purple hedgehog smiled, knowing he was right. She then picked up her son and backed away. She came beside Charles, who was configuring with the control panel.

He grabbed the lever that would kick it into gear, but before pulling it, he looked at Jules in the machine. "This is for you, brother…" He pulled the lever, and the machine activated. A glow came over the mortally wounded hedgehog and he was starting to transform…

Slowly, yet surely, the machine transformed the hedgehog's wounded limbs into steel. When it became enough, Jules stood up on his own, looked at the trio… and smiled. They laughed and cheered as they were going to be one big happy family again.

Suddenly, sparks started to come out of the control panel, and soon a red electrical charge ran through the rest of Jules' body. He made a terrifying shriek as more of him was roboticized.

"No! NO!" Charles desperately pulled the shut-down lever to get him out, but it wouldn't budge.

Soon, Jules' face started to transform. His mouth was segmented into two parts, and his quills became steel. His ears became all metallic and the whites of his eyes were now black. He continued to scream until the process was finished. He was roboticized from head to toe.

The Roboticizer opened and green smoke poured out of the cylinder, the newly robotic hedgehog walked out of the machine slowly.

"Jules…?" his wife asked nervously.

Two red, demonic optics kicked on where his brown eyes once were. "Unit One: activated. Priority one: detect master unit."

The robot's son yelled, "Daddy! No!"

"This unit is not your father, organic life form. This unit is robotic." He said in a cold, mindless, synthetic voice.

A hoarse laugh came from the background. The three fleshy ones looked to see an old human with an orange mustache and a belly that jiggled like jelly. "Success! A brilliant success!"

Charles jumped between him and the other two. "Who are you? And what have you done to my brother?"

"Permit me to introduce myself," he began. "I am Ivo Robotnik. I've come here to conquer this world and enslave all, human and Mobian alike, and the Roboticizer is all that I need for this." He then turned to Jules. "Unit One, throw them in and turn it on."

"Yes, master." He said. He grabbed his wife and threw her in, and then he activated the medical miracle, now a weapon of doom.

"Jules! Please! It's me, your wife!" Her shouts were short lived as the roboticization process kicked in. This time it was much faster, lasting only seconds. "Unit Two: activated."

"Mommy!" Sonic cried. He threw a piece of metal at Robotnik, hitting him clean on the head. "You bad man!"

"So, you dare to defy me, do you?" He commanded Sonic's parents to throw him in. Sonic was picked up by his Uncle Chuck, and they ran off.

But he wasn't fast enough. Jules and Bernadette caught up to them, but Charles threw his nephew outside the lab.

"Uncle Chuck!"

"Forget about me, Sonny Boy! Save yourself!" he shouted as his brother and sister-in-law dragged him back to the lab. The young boy decided to do as he was told.

Sonic ran off into an open field. When he saw no robots were chasing him, the hedgehog boy began to cry. All he wanted was to be comforted by his family, but now he was completely alone… or so he thought.

"Having problems today, son?" asked a voice from behind. An old Mobian owl showed up with a warm, friendly smile.

Sonic didn't respond at first. He wasn't sure who he could trust without his parents. "Y-yeah. My mom and dad and Uncle Chuck are gone… probably forever. A bad man turned them bad with a 'Robot-a-sizer.'"

The owl put a finger to his beak. "Hmm… I've heard rumors of a blue hedgehog that ran faster than sound to escape Robotnik. Would that be you by chance?"

"Uh-huh. I'm Sonic the Hedgehog."

"Harvey Who." The owl then sat down beside him. "Tell me, Sonic… What if I were to tell you that we could save your family from this 'bad man?'"

"You… you could do that?" Sonic turned cheerful.

"Young lad, with your special talents, we can do that and more. We could end this meaningless war, stop Robotnik, and restore peace to Mobius."

"Then... I'll help you. I want my family back."

"And you will get them back," the owl assured him. "Welcome to the Freedom Fighters, Sonic the Hedgehog."

Maria sighed. The more tales of Eggman she heard, the more she felt her family name had crumbled. "So Ivo… I mean, 'Eggman,' sabotaged the Roboticizer, and Sonic had to live without you."

Jules nodded. "That's why he became a Freedom Fighter in the first place."

"But wait... how did Mom and Uncle Chuck change back to normal? And why not you?"

"Well, after the war, an alien race called the Bem de-roboticized the Robians, one by one. There were few exceptions, like myself, and they had a good reason. They told me that the wounds I had received during the war were so critical, that if the process were to be reversed… it would…" the mechanical hedgehog looked upset. "It would kill me. So instead, they restored my free will and my memories."

Maria looked at Jules with pity. "Do you miss being a Mobian?"

Jules sighed again. "Yes… It's like I'm a ghost made of steel," he told her. "I can't eat. I can't sleep. I can't hold my wife or children and feel their warmth… I miss being alive."

Maria was mute for a moment. She could see how much her adoptive father hated his body, and she wished she could help him. So the girl made a decision. "I can try to change you back!" she said, cheerfully.

"What?" Jules asked surprised. "Don't be ridiculous. The man who invented that thing-"

"…was my grandfather," interrupted Maria. "I saw him build the machine myself, and I've learned all its mechanics and programming. I'm certain I can find a way to reverse the process and save you." She placed her hands on her father's cold, metal shoulders. "I promise you… maybe not before Christmas, but someday... no more Unit One. I'll make you Jules Hedgehog again."

If Robians in his day could move their mouths, Jules would be beaming from cheek to cheek. "Such a compassionate heart… I guess the Robotnik family isn't so bad after all." He then embraced her new daughter, and she returned the gesture. Maria smiled, though Jules didn't notice. Being able to help those in need always satisfied her inside.

"Uncle Jules! Cousin Maria!" Manic called out. "Where are you two?"

"Oh… Coming!" Maria laughed, and she and her father went to the living room to finish decorating the Christmas tree.

Chapter 3

Total Eclipse

Shadow slowly got up. He wasn't in pain, not anymore, but he was being cautious. He thought it was just an irrational sensation at first, but he was wrong. "I take it you're the new Black Arm hive mind…" Shadow growled.

The Black Arm chuckled. "Me? No, nothing so lofty. Think of me as… the first lieutenant."

"Then listen closely, 'lieutenant.' Go away, and leave us in peace."

"Was Black Doom given that same warning when he first came here? Did you let him leave this world with his life? You'll understand if I'm not inclined to respect your wish."


"I know him the same way you do, brother. We were created the exact same way, you and I. The only real difference is I am pure-blood."

"That's impossible," Shadow replied out of denial, "The Black Arms were defeated years ago. I carried this out myself."

"Do you seriously believe Black Doom played all the cards in his hand?"

Shadow was puzzled. He didn't know what to think. It was still difficult for him to grasp his mind around the survival of the alien race before him.

In a swift move, the creature warped behind him and held his claw on Shadow's head. The black hedgehog gasped in shock. Many images appeared in his subconscious. "Let me show you…"

On the far edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, there lay the dwarf planet Eris. At approximately fifteen billion miles from the sun, it almost triples the distance from Earth to Pluto. As far as scientists knew, the small cluster of dirt was uninhabited… They were wrong.

Hidden within was a secret laboratory. It wasn't one made by humans or Mobians, rather by something else. In one room in particular, a monster lay asleep in a glass tube full of green liquid. It was the lizard-like humanoid himself, Eclipse. It hadn't been released in a long time if at all.

Suddenly, the machine activated. The liquid drained, and air was released into the tube. The beast slowly opened its hissing yellow and black eyes. With a quick throw of his fist, he punched through the glass and got out of the capsule. It looked around and could see it was alone.

Then, a nearby screen activated. On it was an alien being with three eyes and two large horns. The lizard creature lurched back. "Greetings, Eclipse," began the figure on the screen. "I am Black Doom, your creator… your master. Should you be watching this, I am now deceased."

Eclipse stood still and listened. Seeing the black and red marking on him similar to his own, he assumed he was right.

"We have been betrayed and destroyed by your so-to-speak brother, Shadow the Hedgehog." The screen then showed a black and red Mobian. "Fearing this would occur, I created you the same way I did him… with my own blood. Through this, you possess extraordinary power. Most of them will mirror that of which Shadow possesses, such as strength, agility, and unfathomable speed. You will also possess the same control over Chaos that Shadow does. The only difference in your abilities is that yours are more acute than his, because you are pure-blood Black Arm."

Eclipse looked down at his claws, processing all this information. He could feel the power coursing within, and he started to image what potential he had.

"Now, I leave you with your only mission. There's a blue and green planet called Earth further within this galaxy. Travel there, and avenge our kind. In other words…destroy Shadow the Hedgehog and the world he foolishly protects!" With that said, the image on the screen kicked off.

The alien was silent for a moment. But then an idea bubbled in his mind. "I will avenge you, master… but not in the way you think…" He quickly used Chaos Control, and once again, the small planet of Eris was a lifeless ball of dirt, drifting through space.

The black and red hedgehog lurched back, shocked. With all that has happened since he had come into Knothole, sensing his presence, he couldn't help but believe him. Even though it defied all logic, there was no mistaking the facts.

Eclipse continued to flood his mind with images. "Like you, I'm free to act off my own accord. Free to think and fight you off my own terms. The ultimate answer to the ultimate problem… But," he added, "I'm also free to question if tearing you apart is the only way.

"The way I see it, we're the last of our kind, you and I. The Black Arms are nearly extinct! So wouldn't we be so much stronger if we recreated the hive together?" he asked. "Just picture it! Twin sons of Doom! Brothers in arms! Worlds would fall to us, and the Black Arms would reign superior!"

But the more the intruder spoke, the more his so-called brother resisted. "Get…out…" He growled. He mentally fought against Eclipse until finally… "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!"

Eclipse was forced back away from Shadow's body. He was rather disappointed, but he still tried. "Shadow, you're not listening! We don't need to fight! You don't need to pretend you're one of these worms! You can finally come home!"

The black hedgehog shook off his amazement quickly, and he stood ready to fight. "This world is my home. I made a promise to protect this world, and the Black Arms sought it destroyed. My path is clear." He pulled out his Chaos Emerald. "Chaos Control!"

To everyone's great surprise, nothing happened. The alien grinned again.

"What…? Chaos Control! CHAOS CONTROL!" Still, nothing… "Why isn't it working?"

"You shouldn't have underestimated me!" said Eclipse. "Your world is mine now! You shall die my way!"

Shadow shrugged. "Fine. We'll settle this the old fashioned way!" He curled up and launched a homing attack at the creature.

Eclipse chuckled silently. Once the black hedgehog was close enough, he jumped out of the way and kicked him into a nearby wall.

The Ultimate Lifeform got up after he fell and wiped the dirt from his face. Furious, he charged at his alien 'brother,' but surprisingly, he couldn't win. With every punch Shadow threw, Eclipse dodged and launched a counter attack. Finally, the alien threw Shadow into another wall. The ebony and crimson Mobian fell to his hands and knees, very little strength left to fight.

Maria saw everything. She pulled and pushed to move her muscles.

Eclipse was only feet away. He looked at his adversary, rather disappointed. "Is this a joke? How could someone as weak as you betray the Black Arms?"

"How… are you blocking… my Chaos Control?" Shadow panted.

"It doesn't matter. To fulfill my purpose, my master's executioner must be destroyed." The creature drew out his own Chaos energy and prepared to finish his job when…

"STOP!" The blonde hedgehog ran out between the black one and the alien. She had broken free of the gas' effects and came to Shadow's rescue.

"This doesn't concern you, woman! Step aside, and I'll consider sparing you!" Eclipse demanded.

But Maria simply put her foot down. "Absolutely NOT!"

The alien monster glared at them. "You have a human's arrogance, yellow hedgehog. But I possess the power of Chaos!" He then threw several Chaos Spears at them all at once.

"Chaos Shield!" The energy flowed from Maria's hands to form a barrier. The Chaos Spears ricocheted off the barrier and flew into the sky. "Join the club," she grinned.

Suddenly, another shape joined them. It was Jack, and he had his arm cannon aimed at the alien. "My friends! No touchie!"

"Three against one?" asked Eclipse. "Good… a challenge. Have at me, fools!"

Shadow stood up, looked at the other two, and smiled. He was lucky to have friends like these. "Let's go, Team ARK!"

To Eclipse's surprise, the three proved to be far more of a challenge then he expected. As he tried to attack one, another would counter-attack, Jack's cybernetic armaments proved too strong for his Chaos Spear. Maria's Chaos Control was enough to stun the alien. And Shadow… with his strength restored, he was tougher than before.

Before long, the alien was down on the ground. Though he showed no injury, he was weak and weary. He staggered to his feet, and the three were just about to unleash a Team Blast on him when a bizarre portal opened up behind Eclipse. He wasn't sure where it came from, but he saw it as a means to escape and recover.

He turned to Shadow. "You haven't seen the last of me, brother!" With that said, he jumped through and disappeared.

"Hey! Get back!" Jack chased after him.

Shadow stopped the robot. "Let him go. He'll be back soon enough, and we'll be ready…" The black and red one turned to the other Freedom Fighters. The gas that paralyzed them was now starting to wear off. "Is everyone alright?" he asked and everyone showed signs of perfect health.

Sonic and his family approached them. "Maria, are you alright?" Bernadette asked.

"We're fine. But thanks for your concern, Mom." Suddenly, she realized that she had called her by the wrong title. Before Bernadette could say anything, Maria quickly cut her speech. "S-Sorry, I don't know what came over me…"

However, the mother of the blue blur approached her and slowly wrapped her arms around her. Maria's eyes widened with surprise. Bernadette whispered into her ear. "I know you've had a painful past… I can see it in your eyes." She lightly kissed her on the forehead. "That's why we-!"

Without knowing he did so, the king interrupted her. "We've suffered worse, but that's what we live for." He then looked at the black and red hedgehog. "Shadow, was it? I will admit I had my doubts about you at the start. Sonic told me you were one of the Black Arms. Now, I know you are nothing like them. We are honored to have you in our cause."

Shadow was pleased. Not only was he being accepted by his own kind, they fully accepted as an ally and a friend. He bowed his head. "It's a pleasure, your Highness."

"Please… call me Max," he said as a lynx appeared near the king. "As a token of my esteem, I have instructed Nicole to let you purchase some available homes in the city. I assume you have no place to stay at the moment."

"This way, please." She started to lead three of the four out of the near-ended celebration. Nicole then stopped and called out to Maria.

The blonde hedgehog looked at her, then at the Sonic and his family. She was certain she didn't really have a choice. "It was nice meeting all of you… it really was…"

"Maria…" Sonic started.

"…but I have to go."

"No. No, you don't," he interrupted in a gentle manner. "You can stay. I mean, you're already part of the family. And not just because you got your body from me."

His father and mother stepped up. "What do you say, Maria?" asked the latter. "Do you want to be a Hedgehog?"

Maria stood awe-struck. "Y-You… want to adopt me?" Apart from this question, she was speechless. Being in space her entire childhood, away from her parents, she hardly even knew them. Being revived so long later, she never would meet them. Now, she was being given something she never truly had before… a family.

She turned around to her friends. All of them seemed very positive of this offer, especially Shadow and Jack, who knew her better than the rest. When she looked back at Sonic, though she was verbally silent, the girl ran to them, arms open wide.

The Hedgehog family welcomed their new member with a large group hug. It was all the answer they needed.

Elsewhere, far away, Eclipse reappeared through the portal he jumped through. He looked around, cautiously. He seemed to be surrounded by metal, like he was in a lab. It was dark, and there were many dark silhouettes.

"Are you unharmed?" asked one of them.

He looked in the direction of the voice. "For the most part, but… who are you? And what do you want?"

A mysterious figure emerged from the dark. He looked much like a large winged human. In his hand was a Chaos Emerald. "I am Makuta, firstborn of Mata Nui," it said. "Los ok hokoron. Like you, I am an enemy of Shadow the Hedgehog. I am hoping you will join us in our ambitions."

"That depends. Do they involve the destruction of the black and red nuisance?"

Makuta was silent for a second, but he replied, saying, "In part."

Eclipse kneeled. "Then I shall join you. How do you plan to bring about his death? And how do I assist?"

"Drem. Patience," Makuta grinned. "We must remain hidden for a short time… and weather the coming storm."


No journal entries yet.


Harvey Who
United States

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