Categories > Games > Sonic the Hedgehog > Sonic Adventure 2: Dark Tomorrow

The Underground Resistance

by nintendofreakgcn 1 review

Rouge takes Knuckles and Tails to GUN's base, where Knuckles hopes to find answers about Shadow.

Category: Sonic the Hedgehog - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Amy Rose, Knuckles, Miles "Tails" Prower, Rouge - Warnings: [!!] [?] - Published: 2006-06-10 - Updated: 2006-06-10 - 10379 words

A.N: Yeah, I think I've given up on trying to explain the ridiculous gap between my updates. If you're still reading this, then you've probably accepted that problem, and I thank you for it.

Be sure to read the author's note at the end, but only after you've read the chapter itself. The author's note contains a little bit of explanation regarding one character, as well as a small teaser of what's going to happen in Chapter 5.

So, please read, enjoy, and, if at all possible, review.

Chapter 4: The Underground Resistance

The sleek GUN speeder craft sped through the mountain range. Only a low hum could be heard from the vehicle's engines. Its plain brown design enabled it to blend into the bleak mountainside. The speeder's interior was completely covered by the armour, although it didn't provide much protection.

The victors of the recent combat were inside the vehicle. The GUN soldiers sat in the hard seats, remaining as disciplined as ever. Rouge sat near the cockpit to keep an eye on things. The two seats in the cockpit were taken up by the speeder's pilot and Tails, who had taken a keen interest in all of GUN's technology.

"So what sort of speeds can this craft reach?" Tails asked, analysing the complicated console that controlled the vehicle. His face had more enthusiasm on it than it had in a long time.

"Two hundred to three hundred kilometres per hour if we push it, depending on the terrain," the pilot replied in a thick Asian accent. He somehow managed to keep up the conversation without taking his eyes off the terrain in front of him. "It's faster than any of Eggman's ground forces, but from what I've heard, it's not as fast as some of the company you've had in the past."

Tails' enthusiasm vanished in an instant. He gazed off into empty space. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Sorry. I spoke without thinking there."

Tails shook his head. "No, it wasn't your fault." There was silence for a moment, before Tails added, "Is it hard to pilot this vehicle?"

The pilot shrugged. "It's not that hard." He looked towards Tails. "Fancy a go?"

"Naka," Rouge interjected before Tails could reply, "the kid doesn't even know which way we're supposed to be going."

Naka turned back towards Rouge. "Sorry, ma'am."

Rouge casually folded her arms across her chest. "Mind you, I'm not exactly sure if you know which way we're supposed to be going, either, since you're about to crash into a mountain."

Naka instantly turned back towards the front and performed a hard right turn. The speeder missed the mountain wall by only a few metres. Most of the passengers felt a mild lurch due to the sudden change in velocity. Fortunately, their seatbelts saved them from any real harm. Knuckles, on the other hand, who had been standing up at the back of the craft, was sent flying into a wall. He grimaced as he hit the wall with a thud.

"Great piloting, guys," Knuckles groaned as he regained his balance.

"Well, you wouldn't have had a problem if you just sat down and buckled up like we told you to," Rouge replied without turning back.

Knuckles' eyes narrowed. "I like to be behind those who I don't trust. It keeps them from stabbing me in the back."

"Well, that's the most ungrateful thing I've ever heard!" She held up two fingers in Knuckles' general direction. "Are you forgetting that I've saved your life twice now, when you've only saved mine once?"

Knuckles pointed a shovel claw at Rouge. "Look, every time you ever helped me out, it's benefited you at the same time. I don't owe you anything."

"You mean it didn't benefit you when you saved the Master Emerald as well as me?"

Knuckles flinched. After he regained his composure, he added, "My point is that neither of us owe each other anything." With those words, the conversation stopped for a few minutes. It was only when Knuckles glanced towards the cockpit that he realised that they were still in the mountain range. "How long is it going to take us to get out of these mountains, anyway?"

"A bloody long time, since we're not heading out of the mountains," Rouge replied. "Our base is inside them."

Knuckles closed his eyes and put a hand to his face. "Let me get this straight - the base of this top-secret resistance movement is right next to Eclipse Crater, Eggman's most secure territory. Mind if I ask why you'd do something so stupid?"

Rouge turned her head around so that half of it faced Knuckles. "Well, you clearly didn't expect it to be there. Given that our base is still in one piece, neither does Eggman."

Knuckles was left to ponder those words in silence. He couldn't help but wonder what he had gotten himself into. Here he was, with a group he didn't know, led by someone he didn't trust, all because they had information on someone who was trying to kill him. They were headed deep into Eggman's territory, because apparently that was the place where they would be safest from him. Knuckles shook his head. He couldn't believe that he had once found it a complicated matter to decide which of Sonic or Eggman was his real foe. Mere survival was a complicated matter nowadays.

The rest of the journey passed without incident. Tails occasionally asked more questions about the technology of the speeder, which Naka seemed almost too happy to answer. Knuckles couldn't believe that some people gave out their trust so easily. He didn't absorb most of the conversation, since it was largely jargon to him. He did take note of the fact that the craft carried a small payload of missiles and a few pulse cannons on the roof, but that was all.

After what seemed like an eternity to Knuckles, Naka finally said, "We're nearing the base, ma'am."

Rouge nodded. "Good. Stop outside the entrance and open a channel." Knuckles stumbled slightly as the vehicle slowed to a stop. Rouge stood up and walked into the cockpit. She pressed a button on the console. "This is Rouge reporting. Mission successful, and E-109 Kappa has been destroyed. Tell the general that I need a meeting with him right away. Transferring password now." Rouge tapped a dozen buttons in quick succession.

Knuckles glanced towards the cockpit. Nothing had happened. All he could see in front of them was sheer rock-face. Then, without warning, the speeder rocketed towards the mountain. Knuckles was flung into the wall again, and pinned to it. No one seemed to notice that they were about to crash. "Look out!" Knuckles shouted, but it was too late. The sheer wall filled the vision through the cockpit. Knuckles shut his eyes tight and braced for impact.

It was an impact that never came. The craft kept on moving, and eventually stopped, but much more slowly than Knuckles had expected. He collapsed to the ground, and panted as he did so. He had not breathed at all during that incredibly long moment. After he had taken a moment to ease his rattled nerves, Knuckles opened his eyes.

Rouge, Tails and the others all stood in front of him. Tails appeared to be trying not to laugh. Rouge simply rolled her eyes. "You know," she said, "maybe you should listen in on your friend's conversations. If you had, you'd know that the entrance to our base is hidden in the side of the mountain behind a projected image."

Knuckles rose to his feet. "Better yet," he growled, "you could have told me that earlier and saved me from a heart attack."

"It's not like it would have been any use, since you never listen to me anyway."

"Yes, but then you'd have been entitled to be even angrier at him than you are now," Tails said. Knuckles and Rouge both glared at him, and he backed away sheepishly.

"Anyway," Rouge said, "can someone open the doors? It's way too crowded in here, what with the extra passengers and the kid's bloody great transforming plane in the cargo bay." Tails opened his mouth as if to say something, but after another glare form Rouge, he shut it again.

One of the soldiers from the group moved over to a control panel near the door, and pressed a few buttons in quick succession. The doors slid open with a hiss, but Knuckles didn't bother to look at what was on the other side. Instead, he merely looked towards the rest of the group, and said, "After you." He folded his arms across his chest. This was made rather difficult by the fact that the shovel claws were still on his fists. After the group had passed him by, Knuckles followed them. He raised his fists and looked around as he exited the craft.

The room that Knuckles and the others now stood in was quite unlike anything he had ever seen. It was a massive hangar bay that stretched out beyond sight. Vehicles of every description were parked along its walls: speeders like the one Knuckles had just been in; small, sleek fighters; bulky tanks and; massive vehicles with drills on them, presumably for tunneling; and many more. Knuckles tried to avoid letting his jaw drop at the sheer power that GUN possessed, and failed miserably. Tails looked as if he had died and gone to heaven.

Rouge showed none of their enthusiasm. Instead, she simply waved her hand around vaguely and said, "Welcome to GUN headquarters."

Knuckles' head swept around in a slow arc as his mind took in what he was seeing. "If you've got all these weapons, why haven't you whooped Eggman's hide yet?" he asked.

Rouge shrugged. "Well, while Eggman may not have much in the way of an army for conquering the few remaining pockets of resistance, the security systems in his territory are beyond compare. He can knock out any large-scale attack before it even reaches his bases. Well, that and we have a severe shortage of people to actually operate this stuff. It's taken us months just to ship it all over from around the world."

"You mean there are more bases like this around the world?" Tails asked, though his eyes were fixated on a nearby fighter craft.

Rouge shook her head. "I wish. If that was the case, we would have taken the fight to Eggman by now. No, as it stands this is the only large base. We've got some other smaller bases in areas of high activity, but they're really just for scouting."

Tails whipped his head around to face Rouge. "Really? Hey, what's your scanning equipment like anyway?"

Knuckles brought his left shovel claw down the metal wall of the hangar. The others covered their ears as a loud screech reverberated through the area. After a few seconds, Knuckles stopped. Everyone in the hangar glared at him, including the few servicemen who were working on nearby vehicles. Rouge shook her head as she rubbed her large but tender ears. "Look, I didn't come here to talk about scanners," Knuckles growled. "I came here to get some answers on Shadow and this whole situation, and I will get them."

"Sheesh," Rouge whispered, "I'd heard that hedgehog friend of yours was impatient, but I had no idea it extended to you."

Knuckles could feel his muscles becoming tenser by the second. "Yeah, well being on the run from a mad scientist dictator and his powerful but insane hedgehog cohort would probably do that to anyone. Now tell me what's going on before I forget that we're technically on the same side."

"Yeah, well, I'm not authorised to give out that information. You'll have to talk to the General if you want to find that out."

Knuckles raised an eyebrow. "What sort of jewel thief cares about authority, anyway?"

Rouge frowned. "One who's been run out of work by a mad scientist dictator and his powerful but insane hedgehog cohort. Now are you coming or not? Because if you're not, then you might as well just leave right now."

Knuckles was about to reply, but Tails interrupted him by whispering, "Uh-oh." Knuckles and Rouge turned towards him. The young fox stood there agape, his eyes staring at nothing in particular.

"Tails," Knuckles groaned, "you know I don't like it when you do that. It always means that you've always come to some really, really bad realisation."

"Well, you're right, Knuckles," Tails replied, "because I've completely forgotten to contact Amy since we met these guys. A stray shot during the battle busted the Tornado 3's communications system, and I'd forgotten to turn on my portable communicator."

Knuckles shook his head, hoping that Tails would say he was joking. There was no such response. Knuckles whipped around to face Rouge. "You know what? It would be my pleasure to meet the General. In fact, let's go right now." Knuckles pointed a shovel claw in Tails' general direction, narrowly missing a GUN soldier in the process. "Tails, you can contact Amy."

Rouge smirked at Knuckles, who would have scowled at her in any other situation for that. Instead, he simply nodded rapidly. "Alright then," Rouge said. "Naka, you show the kid around after he's been grilled. Answer any questions he asks to the best of your knowledge." Naka saluted, and promptly led Tails away. "The rest of you, come with me." Rouge walked away, and Knuckles and the GUN soldiers followed a short distance behind.

Knuckles increased his stride to catch up to Rouge. "So, you've got no problem with some guy telling Tails anything he wants to know, but when I want to know something, you set this General guy on me?"

"Naka doesn't know anything of any real strategic importance," Rouge replied, "so it doesn't really matter what he tells the kid."

"Oh, and here I was thinking that it was because you didn't trust me."

Rouge turned her head towards Knuckles and scowled. "Well, would you trust someone who recently tried to kill you?" Rouge had just reached the main exit out of the hangar. The door hissed open as she approached, and they all walked through into the corridor beyond. The walls of the corridor were made of bare but smooth stone, with no additional structural support.

Knuckles returned the scowl. "Yeah, well maybe if you'd told me at some point that you were a government agent, I wouldn't have done that."

Rouge flung her arms out sideways. "What, you think I could have told you that a year ago without blowing my cover? And today, you attacked me before I even had a chance to tell you anything!"

Knuckles pointed his ironclad fist right at Rouge's heart, and erratically waved his other arm around. "Why couldn't you have told me? According to you, we were on the same freaking side! If you had told me, then we could have joined forces. We could have beaten Eggman, and stopped the whole world from falling under his rule! We could have saved millions of innocent people!"

Rouge put her hand on her hips. "Oh yes, because you're so great at seeing the bigger picture," she said sarcastically. "You didn't go and put one stupid gem ahead of the wellbeing of the entire world."

Knuckles gritted his teeth. Even now, he could feel the Master Emerald's energy flowing through his right hand, and it almost seemed as if its energy caused his muscles to tense. "It's not a stupid gem, it's the Master Emerald," he growled. "It's currently the one chance I can see of beating Eggman. I thought you would have realised its power when you stole it. Or were you too busy being Eggman's lackey?"

The ground cracked as Rouge smashed her foot into it. "Look, just shut up!" she shouted. Knuckles recoiled in shock. Even he had never seen her so mad. "I gave you back that stupid emerald, and that should have ended your hatred of me. Now you've started thinking that I wanted Eggman to take over the world or something!" Knuckles stepped back until he was pressed against the wall. Rouge advanced on him, and jabbed one of her fingers into Knuckles' chest. "I was only doing my job! I never expected him to succeed! I never expected to have to fear that Eggman could find this place and kill me any day! I never wanted any of that!" For the first time, Knuckles saw tears in Rouge's eyes. "So stop reminding me of the worst mistake of my life, and stop thinking that I'm the sole reason for every problem in your life!"

With those words, Rouge stormed off. A moment later, she turned around a corner, leaving Knuckles and the GUN soldiers in her wake. The still silence reminded Knuckles all too well of what he thought it would be like to die. He'd had that feeling before, when his wounds in his battle with Eta had taken their toll, but this was even worse. The tightness in his chest was slowly suffocating him, and it was only by focusing on his breathing that the feeling dulled at all.

After a moment, the GUN soldiers walked past Knuckles. A couple of them glanced at him as they passed. Although Knuckles couldn't see their faces behind the visors, he could vaguely imagine the stunned expressions that must have lain beneath. As the soldiers turned the corner to follow Rouge, Knuckles ran after them. He caught up to them within moments, but stayed behind the rest of the group. Rouge was only a little over ten metres ahead now, but it seemed like miles to Knuckles, and right now, that was the way he preferred things.

As the group walked through the maze of corridors, Knuckles couldn't help but notice the people whose heads were poking out of doorways all around them. Knuckles hunched over in an attempt to blend in, but he knew it was hopeless. Any attempt at keeping a low profile had died along with Rouge's patience.

Knuckles sighed. He had no idea how he got into these messes. It seemed that he couldn't even set foot in a place without something going horribly wrong. If it had been anyone but himself, he might have found it mildly amusing, but as it stood, it only made him feel cursed. It seemed as if he was doomed to be forever picking up the pieces, but never even rebuilding what he had destroyed.

After a few minutes, Knuckles found Rouge standing on a bare elevator platform. The troops walked onto the platform, and Knuckles followed. He made sure to stand as far away from Rouge as possible, but even that was too close for comfort. Rouge looked at no one, but simply closed her eyes as the elevator began to descend. The tears had caused her mascara to stain her face.

It was a short ride, and it wasn't long before Knuckles felt his stomach lurch as the elevator stopped. Knuckles looked away from the elevator. This area was quite unlike the higher floor. The corridor that led away from the elevator appeared to have been simply hewn out of the stone in a very haphazard manner. The only artificial items that could be found were the light-emitting tubes on the wall, but even they seemed to have been designed to resemble old-fashioned torches.

Rouge trudged down the corridor, and Knuckles and the soldiers followed, still being sure to keep at a distance. The corridor twisted and turned like a corkscrew. There were several points when the paths split off into two. Knuckles wanted to know what could possibly lie down the other paths, but he knew that following Rouge was his top priority.

Eventually, Knuckles and his companions reached a reinforced metal door at the end of the tunnel. It looked entirely out of place in the sheer stone wall. Rouge walked up to a small computer console next to the door, and pressed the only button on the interface.

"State your clearance," said a deep and raspy voice that seemed to come from all around the group. Knuckles glanced around in an attempt to find its origin, but no sign of any communications equipment yielded itself. No one else in the group seemed at all fazed by this omnipotent voice.

Rouge sighed and vaguely rolled her eyes. "General, this is Rouge," she replied. "I've brought him."

Knuckles flinched. He had no idea how the GUN General could possibly know who he was, especially through such a vague message. Knuckles' mind darted to suspicions of a trap, but found nothing. They could have easily killed him earlier if they'd wanted to, or simply left him to die at the hands of the E-1000s. Nor was there any apparent reason for them to want him eliminated. Every explanation just raised more questions.

Knuckles glanced back at the GUN soldiers, but their weapons were lowered. His eyes darted all over the tunnel, and he raised his ironclad fists. He would be ready for anything. At that moment, the door opened with a hiss. The room on the other-side was nearly pitch-black. Only a small amount of light from the tunnel penetrated the absolute darkness within.

Rouge nodded vaguely towards the room. Knuckles took a deep breath, and walked towards the entrance. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and he didn't know why. He was accustomed to danger. It had become his lifeblood. Part of him knew, however, that what he had always feared and would always fear was the unknown.

As Knuckles dragged his back foot into the room, the doors snapped shut in an instant, leaving Knuckles completely blind to his mysterious tormentor. At that instant, though, lights all around the room flashed on, blinding Knuckles. He tried to back away, but found only cold, hard steel behind him.

A gunshot broke the silence. Reflex took over Knuckles' mind. His left hand stretched away from his body in an instant. Knuckles flicked his wrist, and a loud clang rang out. A fraction of a second later, there was a dull thud.

Knuckles squinted as his eyes adjusted to the light. Gradually, a shadowy image came into view. Knuckles could just make out the silhouette of a person sitting behind a desk with a pistol in his hand. There was a bullet-shaped hole in the wall, mere inches from the side of his head. Knuckles moved to charge, but felt an all-too familiar sensation of being held back.

Knuckles head whirled to his right, and as his sight became clearer, he saw the unmistakable form of Rouge there, holding his arm in her two gloved hands. Knuckles had no idea how Rouge had managed to sneak in behind him, but he knew it was part of her job to perform the impossible. As Rouge let go of Knuckles' arm, she whispered, "Don't worry, he does that to everybody. He wouldn't have hit you."

Knuckles' head darted toward the figure behind the desk. He could now see that the figure was an elderly man. He wore typical military attire, although there were none of the medals that Knuckles had been led to believe decorated such men. His build was surprisingly muscular for a man of his age, as if those body parts had not aged at all. What had clearly aged, though, was the man's face. Wrinkles covered it, and his grey hair was a disheveled mess. Knuckles was most shocked, however, by the man's eyes. They were barely visible amidst the deep recesses in his skull that served as sockets. The man's entire expression was grim.

"Indeed, Rouge is correct," the man said in that same deep and raspy voice that Knuckles had heard before. "It's a little test I designed to test the characters of those who enter my chambers. Quite simply, I believe that a person - or animal's - true colours are best shown when they are faced with what they believe to be certain death. In those instances, a true warrior will accept his fate, and stand firm, but a coward will try to flee, and will die without honour."

Knuckles crossed his arms across his chest, and managed a weak smirk. "So, what do you think of me, then?" he asked.

The man put the pistol down on the bare wooden desk. "In all honesty, I've never seen anyone respond in the way you did. It seems that you hold onto your life, but not so much that you would give up your honour for it. You prefer to fight than flee. In the end, though, you seem to be uncertain of what to do with your life." Knuckles stared at the man incredulously. "But enough with the psychology. Please, come closer."

Knuckles walked towards the desk. Every muscle in his body tensed, and his mind was on the lookout for even the slightest movement or sound. When Knuckles reached the desk, the man extended his hand towards him. "General Michael Stuart," the man said in a stern but welcoming tone, "Commander-in-Chief of GUN."

Knuckles' smirk turned into a frown, but otherwise, he remained motionless. "Knuckles the Echidna," he replied, "and I'm just your average nutter who sometimes thinks he can change the world." Michael's hand didn't move. "Oh, and sorry about my rudeness, but the last man I shook hands with currently rules the world."

"Then I would consider it a blessing to shake hands with you. Still, as you wish." Michael moved his hand back to his side of the desk. "Regardless of what you think, though, I would never call you average."

"Yeah, but I've known the best and worst creatures in my time, and compared to them, I'm nothing. You'd be hard pressed to find something that surprises me any more. Still, I find it weird that a big shot general like yourself doesn't have a million and one flashy medals to your name." Knuckles waved his hand at Michael in order to emphasise his point.

Michael frowned, and his entire face seemed to twist up into something resembled a caricature of evil. He picked up his pistol, and began to stroke it idly. "Oh, I've got the medals," he whispered. "Token ones, of course. I was never respected or trusted enough to get anything more. I daresay the only reason they ever promoted me was to keep an eye on me." Michael grinned, and Knuckles could swear that he saw the faintest gleam in the general's eyes. "Ironically, it saved my life, but that's another story for another time. For you, I will simply say that I have no pride in my roots, and thus have no desire to showcase them to whoever needs to meet with me."

Knuckles' eyes narrowed. He had never been good at seeing good or evil in a person, but Michael was even more of an enigma to him than any other. "So, now that we're finished with the pleasantries, why don't you tell me how you knew I was coming?"

Michael instantly snapped out of his trance. With a bemused look on his face, he put his pistol back down on the desk. After a few seconds, he regained his composure. "Ah, yes, that's one question that's very easy to answer. My agents had seen the wanted posters of you and your friend Miles Prower around various cities. When news of this reached me, it was clear that you were fighting against Eggman, and must have been particularly tough foes to beat, given the size of the reward offered. Thus, I knew it was only a matter of time before our two groups came into contact." Michael's face almost beamed. "By the way, how is Miles doing? I'm assuming he's around here, as well, of course."

It was a few moments before Knuckles managed to respond. He couldn't believe that he was talking to one man. "Um, he's here, and he's alright. Well, as alright as anyone can be nowadays."

Michael grinned. Once again, Knuckles saw that sinister gleam in the General's eyes. "Yes, all the pieces are coming into place."

Knuckles raised an eyebrow. "The pieces are coming into place? For what?"

Michael leant towards Knuckles. "Why, for the end of this war. With your power added to our own, we can finally defeat Eggman once and for all."

Knuckles raised his hands and shook his head. "Hold on, I never said anything about helping you."

Michael's composure wavered. He rose from his chair, and towered over Knuckles. "Why would you turn down this chance, Knuckles? Don't you want to defeat Eggman? Why won't you accept our aid?"

Knuckles' composure was faultless. "Because you're not the ones who are going to defeat Eggman."

Michael laughed mockingly. "And you are?"

Knuckles' expression remained stern but resolute. "If anyone is going to defeat Eggman, then yeah, it's going to be me. The only way we can hope to beat Eggman is to deactivate the Eclipse Cannon. Only the Master Emerald can do that."

"Ah yes, the fabled Master Emerald." Michael scowled. "Hand it over, Knuckles. We know you have it on you, and we need it."

Knuckles scowled back. "Over my dead body."

"That can be arranged." Michael's hand flashed towards his pistol. Knuckles leapt onto the desk. Michael raised the pistol and took aim. Before he could pull the trigger, Knuckles slashed at the weapon with his ironclad left fist. The barrel of the pistol was instantly cut off. Knuckles pressed his right shovel claw against Michael's neck.

"Stop!" Rouge yelled. Knuckles slowly turned his head around to face her. "How dumb are you two, anyway? You're on the same side, and yet you still go around trying to kill each other!"

Knuckles turned back and glared at Michael. "He threatened to take the Master Emerald," Knuckles growled. "I can't just stand by and let that happen."

"Yeah, well I am not going to let our one chance for victory slip through my fingers," Michael whispered. He remained as still as a corpse.

Rouge rolled her eyes. "Hmm, have you ever thought of a compromise?"

If the situation hadn't been so tense, Knuckles might have laughed at the notion of trying to negotiate with his insane captive. "You've got to be kidding me."

"Ditto," Michael said.

Rouge gritted her teeth. "I swear that you two are the most ridiculous pair of idiots I have ever seen." She sighed. "Well, let's look at this way. Knuckles, you want to get rid of Eggman, don't you?"

Knuckles shrugged. "Well, the day's going to come when it will be either him or me lying dead on the ground, and I have no intention of it being me."

"Right, so why then are you trying to kill the leader of the group that's done the most damage against the Eggman Empire to date?" After a moment of hesitation, Knuckles silently lowered his fists. "I didn't think you'd have an answer, possibly because there isn't a good one. Now, /General/, did you actually read that report I gave you on the Master Emerald when I first got here?"

Michael shook his head. "Frankly, I was more concerned about your report on Shadow at the time," he said. "You should have told me any vital information contained in your report about the Master Emerald."

"Oh, heaven forbid that I thought you'd do your job!" Rouge exclaimed. "Anyway, if you'd actually read the report, you would have seen that I'd commented that it didn't seem possible for any old person to use the Master Emerald. That would appear to be a privilege reserved for its guardian, who happens to be Knuckles." Knuckles smirked. "Do you see what I'm getting at here? If you kill Knuckles, the Master Emerald's useless. Not only that, but I think we owe Knuckles one, since he was the one who defeated Kappa."

"Um, not to bring down my own defense," Knuckles interjected, "but what's so great about defeating that bucket of bolts? I mean you could have just blasted him."

Rouge glanced at Knuckles. "You'd think so, but you'd be wrong. Kappa was our toughest foe to date. In the mission before the one you interrupted, he killed an entire squad almost single-handedly."

Knuckles jaw dropped. "You have got to be kidding me!"

Rouge shook her head. "We're involved in a war that's uglier than any the world has ever faced, and unfortunately, we're the underdogs. Eggman outnumbers us, and his best soldiers can outfight our best. And that," Rouge turned to Michael again, "is another reason why we've got to keep Knuckles alive. He defeated an E-100 unit without any help. No one in our army has been able to do that yet."

Knuckles knew better than to bring up his defeat at Eta's hands. As much as he hated to admit it, his fate currently hung on whether or not a madman thought that Knuckles was a saviour. For what seemed like minutes but was only seconds, Michael stood rigid. Finally, he sank back into his chair. "Very well, Rouge, your point is well made." He turned to face Knuckles. "I believe we can officially call a truce, then?"

"That sounds fair," Knuckles replied. He leapt off the desk, and faced Michael from the opposite side. "Well, now that we're allies of sorts, what information do you have on Shadow?"

Michael raised an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"

"Because he's trying to kill me." Knuckles barely knew why he bothered to mention it, for it seemed that just about everyone wanted to kill him nowadays, even those who were on his side.

Michael stared down at his desk, and for a second, he smiled, but it was a weak mockery of a true smile at best. "Ah yes, well I suppose I should give you the information, then. I can't have anything unfortunate happening to you now, can I?" There was a faint flicker of an evil grin on Michael's lips, but it vanished in an instant. He frowned, and his features seemed to turn to stone as he looked up at Knuckles. For the first time, Knuckles truly saw Michael's eyes. Hidden deep within the sockets were a pair blue eyes; their warm brightness seemed to defy the cold dark of his exterior. Michael leaned forward so that his eyes were only a foot away from Knuckles'. "But you must first understand that what I'm about to tell you is absolutely confidential. Not a single word of it is to leave this room. Do you understand?" Knuckles nodded. "Right then, what do you want to know?"

Knuckles held up his right hand purely out of instinct. "I want to know who made him, his history, his abilities, the reason he's working for Eggman and how I'm supposed to kill him before he kills me." It was only when he'd finished saying that that he realised that he couldn't hold up any of his fingers to display his point.

Michael scratched his head. "Well, the first two I can answer fairly easily, but the others are a little bit trickier. Shadow was created as part of a top-secret military project headed by Professor Gerald Robotnik, Eggman's grandfather."

"That's the same guy who invented the Eclipse Cannon," Knuckles remarked, more to himself than to anyone else. He was pleasantly surprised that he remembered that, since Gerald's name tended to precede some sort of long scientific rant from Tails that Knuckles inevitably forgot.

Michael nodded. "Correct, and we believe that it was Shadow who led Eggman to the Eclipse Cannon, since it's the only way the various dates fall into place. Anyway, Project Shadow was designed to find the secret to immortality, as part of creating the ultimate military weapon. The plan was to create a creature who would wipe out enemy armies single-handedly."

Knuckles folded his arms across his chest. "Now Shadow can wipe out your army single-handedly," he replied with a weak grin.

Michael glared at Knuckles. "I wouldn't go that far. As I was saying, though, Gerald's research was proving successful, until some other research projects broke loose on the ARK, where Gerald and Shadow resided at that time. The decision was made by GUN to shut down the facility. Shadow escaped, but we were able to hunt him down eventually and put him into stasis. We took heavy casualties to do it. If he'd had a Chaos Emerald at the time, I don't think we'd have been able to stop him. As it stands, I still believe that the only reason Shadow was stopped was because he'd given up on life."

"Why would he have given up on life?" Knuckles questioned.

Michael sighed. "Have you ever heard Shadow mention a girl called Maria?"

Knuckles shrugged. "I might have done, but I was paying far more attention to his death threats and random boasting."

Michael leant back in his chair. "That's probably for the best. If Shadow had told you about Maria, I don't think you'd have the heart to kill him."

Knuckles vaguely waved his hand around. "I'm guessing you're not going to tell me either."

Michael shook his head. "As Commander-in-Chief of GUN, I feel it is my duty to tell you the information you need to know, even if it's confidential. However, the information you're asking for is private, which is another matter altogether. As a man, I cannot tell you."

"Fair enough. I still hate your guts for not telling me, though."

"I'm sure you do. Anyway, Eggman released Shadow over a year ago, and Miles would probably have told you the rest as he heard it from Sonic."

Knuckles frowned. "Oh yeah, he told me that alright, but it wasn't pleasant to hear."

Michael nodded. "I'm sure it wasn't. Getting back to your questions, though, I'm afraid we're largely as stumped as you are regarding most of them. We don't know why Shadow's helping Eggman. It's possible that he feels some sort of loyalty towards Eggman, since he's Gerald's grandson, but we don't know. To put things in terms you'd understand, Shadow has all of Sonic's abilities, and then some."

"I know, I saw them. Chaos Control and Chaos Spear." The memory of those abilities still haunted Knuckles' mind, but he was quite sure that Shadow wouldn't be in a hurry to use those against him again, given that they hadn't solved anything in their last battle.

"That's right. It seems that he needs a Chaos Emerald to use those abilities, but he doesn't exactly have a problem getting one of those nowadays. As to how you're supposed to kill him, that's something you'll have to figure out by yourself. Frankly, I don't even want you to."

Knuckles slammed his fists down on the table, cracking it. "What, are you nuts or something?" he cried incredulously. "If Shadow isn't killed, he'll wipe us all out."

Michael didn't even flinch at Knuckles' outburst. "I don't think so. I can't tell you why, but I believe that Shadow's loyalty to Eggman is fleeting at best. I think that if I could just talk with Shadow, then I could turn him to our side."

Knuckles crossed his arms across his chest again. "What, you could just turn a bloodthirsty maniac into a good guy with one conversation?"

"Not exactly. He would kill me, but that would be all."


"Alright, run this past me again," Knuckles said as he loaded a large case onto the GUN speeder craft. "Why are you giving us all this stuff?"

As Knuckles stepped out of the speeder and into the hangar, Rouge closed the door behind him. "Well, just because you're not working for us, doesn't mean that the General doesn't want you to succeed in beating Eggman your way," she replied. "All this stuff is supposed to help you do that." Rouge swiped the sweat from her face. "Besides, it's not as if we're using it, anyway."

Knuckles pointed towards the speeder. "So Tails knows how all the stuff in there works, right?"

"Knuckles, he knows how to use the stuff better than I do, and he's only been here a few hours."

Knuckles shrugged. "Yeah, well that's Tails for you. Hey, where is he, anyway?"

"Right here, Knuckles!" said a voice from behind Knuckles. He turned around to see Tails headed towards him in the Cyclone. "Check it out! I just upgraded the Tornado 3! It's now got a deflector shield generator, pulse cannons, a mini nuclear fusion reactor, a fully operational autopilot and hydrogen-fueled supersonic thrusters."

Knuckles resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "That's great Tails, now could you translate that into English?"

Tails rubbed the back of his neck, and laughed sheepishly. "Well, basically it means it's better than ever."

"Now that's something I can understand."

"Yeah, unfortunately, there's one little catch: the pulse cannons can only be fueled by Chaos Drives."

Knuckles stared blankly at Tails. Rouge rolled her eyes and whispered, "Were you paying any attention to what the General was saying after your little talk about Shadow?"

"I was for a little bit," Knuckles replied, "but then it all fell into a sea of military gibberish."

"Well, if you'd been paying attention, you would have heard the General talking about Chaos Drives. Basically, they contain excess energy harnessed from the Chaos Emeralds. They're a highly efficient energy source, but without Chaos Emeralds, they're in strictly limited supply. Don't worry, we put a year's supply of the stuff on the speeder, so you've got no problem."

"So does Eggman have access to this stuff?"

"Well obviously, since he has the Chaos Emeralds. The E-1000s and E-100s are powered by Chaos Drives. That said, he doesn't seem to have figured out how to use them to their full effect yet, since his robots still use bullets."

Knuckles unconsciously rubbed his left thigh, where the fur had nearly grown back to cover the scar he bore there. "Yeah, well bullets can still do plenty of damage."

"Yeah, I know. I've been shot once myself."

Knuckles nodded, but said nothing. The only sound that could be heard was the gentle hum of machinery. Finally, Knuckles managed to say, "Tails, could you get onto the ship? I just need to have a word with Rouge."

Tails looked from Knuckles to Rouge and back again, shrugged his shoulders, and moved the Cyclone towards the speeder. After a few moments, the door to the speeder closed behind Tails as he entered the craft. As the clanks died down, silence resumed its reign over the hangar. This time, it was Rouge who broke the silence. "So, to what do I owe this great pleasure?" she said sarcastically.

Knuckles resisted the urge to grit his teeth by reminding himself of why he was doing this. He sighed, and stared at the floor. "Look, I'm sorry if I hurt you. I was an insensitive bastard, and didn't look at the situation from your point of view. So, I'm sorry."

Rouge shrugged. "Oh, alright then."

Knuckles looked up at her. "That's it?"

"Well, what did you expect?"

Knuckles shrugged. "I don't know, isn't the other person supposed to say something here? I don't exactly make a habit of apologising to people, you know."

"Yeah, that sounds about right. Look, anyone can say they're sorry. It's another thing entirely for them to actually avoid hurting someone again." Rouge turned around, and began to stride away from Knuckles and into the heart of the base. "Get on the ship when you're ready. There's a few things I've got to sort out."

"Come on, give me a break!" Knuckles shouted. "You must have been yelled at by other people tons of times! Why is it such a big deal when I do it?" There was no response. Rouge didn't even turn back. Knuckles wanted to do something, say something more, but his whole body seemed paralysed, though he had no idea why.

For a long time, Knuckles just stood there, staring at nothing. Nor was there anyone else to look at him. It was as if some greater force had frozen his hopelessness in time for all to see, but no one cared to learn from his mistakes. Finally, Knuckles growled, turned his head away, and walked towards the speeder. Knuckles pressed the button on the side of the door, and it opened. He walked on, unconsciously stamping his feet as he did so.

Knuckles stormed past Tails, who had just finished bolting the Tornado 3 to the underside of the speeder. He barely registered Tails' anxious stare. Knuckles proceeded into the passenger area, and slammed himself down onto one of the seats. Knuckles closed his eyes, and rested his head on his right fist, narrowly avoiding the shovel claw.

Knuckles' mind dimly registered the sound of light footsteps, followed by a voice asking, "Are you alright, Knuckles?" He instantly recognised the voice as Tails'.

"Take a guess," Knuckles groaned. He otherwise remained motionless.

"I'm guessing you're not."

Knuckles nodded. "Good to see there's someone here with common sense."

"Anything I can help with?"

"Not unless you know anything about women."

"All I know is that, if they're all like Amy, then they're all prone to random bouts of insanity."

"Yeah, that's pretty much the impression I got. By the way, how was Amy?

"Well, she says she's going to kill you when you get back."

Knuckles opened his eyes, and glared at Tails. "Did you tell her my communicator got busted? You were the one who had one to use, so why isn't she going to kill you?"

Tails shrugged. "Apparently she doesn't believe in picking on people younger than her."

"Lucky you."

At that moment, Knuckles heard a sound behind him. He lazily turned his head around and found Rouge standing there with a platoon of GUN soldiers. Rouge glanced at Knuckles for a moment, but swiftly turned her attention to Tails. "We're ready to go," she said. "Is your bloody great transforming plane secure?"

Tails nodded. "I'm always ready fast."

"Right, then let's get going." Rouge walked towards the front of the speeder, while the soldiers sat down in the seats. Knuckles found himself flanked by two of them before he even knew what was going on. He stared at Tails, hoping that he'd provide a solution. Tails just shrugged and walked towards the cockpit, where he sat next to Naka, who had already taken his place in the pilot's seat.

Rouge sat down in her chair and fastened her seatbelt. "Oh, can all idiots on this ship make sure that they're strapped in tightly?" she asked. "Naka's said this is going to be a bumpy ride because of all the cargo." Knuckles glared at her, but given that she had her back to him, this didn't accomplish anything. Knuckles strapped his seatbelt on and leant back in his chair. As he folded his arms across his chest, he closed his eyes.

Knuckles barely noticed as the speeder's engines roared to life. It was only the faint shifting of his stomach that told him that they had lifted off. That suited him, as right now he just wished he could disappear. He'd once known a chameleon called Espio who could do that. Knuckles tried not to remind himself of the fact that Espio might have died at some point since their last meeting. Knuckles had quite enough morbid thoughts without that one to add to his list.

Slowly, Knuckles' mind drifted from thought to thought: thoughts of how to defeat Shadow; thoughts of what Amy would do to him when he got back; and thoughts of Rouge. The last one would have surprised him, if he'd been awake to absorb it.


Knuckles awoke into what could only be described as chaos. Vibrations shook the speeder every few seconds, as the GUN soldiers loaded their weapons. Rouge shouted a string of orders that Knuckles didn't absorb in his tired state. "Don't tell me we're under attack," he groaned.

"Alright, I won't tell you," Rouge replied as she walked into the cockpit. "Naka, full thrusters, emergency maneuvers."

Knuckles felt his stomach lurch again. A loud explosion shook the ship. Knuckles' seat tore away from its supports, knocking him to the ground. Knuckles tore his seat belt off and pushed the seat away from him. Red lights flashed all around. Sirens wailed. "We're losing power to the starboard thrusters!" Naka shouted.

Knuckles rose to his feet. "Okay, how screwed are we?" he asked.

"Very," Rouge muttered. "We've got a small squad of some sort of fighter craft that I've never seen before on our tail. Must be some new invention of Eggman's. I recognise one signal, though. There's an E-100 leading them: E-110 Lambda."

"Well, shoot it out of the sky!" Knuckles yelled.

Rouge's head snapped back to face Knuckles. With a scowl, she said, "You think we haven't tried that? We hardly have any weapons, and what we've got can't even hit Lambda. It's got something that's jamming the locking system for the missiles, and blocking our pulse cannon shots."

Knuckles frowned. He knew what had to be done. "Where's Tails?"

"I'm in the back room," Tails replied, "and I'm way ahead of you, Knuckles." Knuckles dashed through the room into the back room. The Tornado 3 was there, and Tails was in the pilot's seat. As Knuckles leapt into the back seat, Tails flipped a switch, and the engine roared to life.

"Open the back door."

Rouge flew into the room and hovered beside Knuckles. She pointed at him and said sternly, "You are not launching this thing now. You'd leave the entire ship open to attack if you did."

Knuckles slammed his fists on the outside of the Tornado 3, denting it. "Yeah, well all that means is that we'll die slightly quicker! We're taking off if we have to blast the door off to do it."

Another explosion rocked the speeder, and a faint hiss could just be heard beneath the sirens. Rouge sighed. "Okay, you can do it." She flew back into the main room. "Everyone, hold on tight. Naka, open the back door."

The back door slowly slid open, and immediately, debris flew out into the open air. As the door opened wider, bullets made their way in, rupturing the floor. "Shields up," Tails said as he flipped a switch. A faint blue bubble spread over the Tornado 3. A few stray bullets were vapourised upon the shield.

As the door reached its maximum opening, Tails thrust the throttle forward. A loud boom resounded. Knuckles was flung back into his seat as the Tornado 3 launched out into the battle. As Knuckles regained his bearings, he saw six ships that were little more than giant arrowheads flying in the sky. They were zipping around the GUN speeder, slowly blasting through vital bits of armour with their bullets.

Tails flew behind one of them, and opened fire. Spheres of white energy burst out from the Tornado 3's guns and zipped towards the fighter. Before they could hit, they fizzled into thin air.

"Rouge forgot to tell us that that shield's protecting the fighters, too!" Tails shouted. "These pulse cannons are useless against them!" Knuckles craned his head skyward, and found the culprit: E-110 Lambda. Its purple body was shaped like a giant metal eagle, and it soared over the battle like one.

"Couldn't we take out Lambda instead, to bring the shield down?" Knuckles asked. He tried to ignore the sweat trickling down his body.

"Lambda's protected by the shield!" Tails swung the Tornado 3 in a wide arc around the battle, which was turning into a massacre. The speeder was barely floating over the ground, and it was doing so almost on its side. Fire was beginning to erupt at the rear. "No energy attacks can get through, and our missile are useless without a lock-on!"

"Why don't you just shoot it down with bullets?"

Tails was silent for a moment. "I sort of removed those," he whispered. "I didn't think there'd be much use for them anymore."

"Great," Knuckles growled. Every muscle in his body tensed. His head felt like it was going to explode. He needed a plan, and he needed one now. As he stared at his ironclad fists, an idea finally came to him. Knuckles took a deep breath. "Tails, fly the plane directly over the speeder, and keep the exact same speed as it."

"Knuckles, those fighters will shoot at us if we do that, and the shield won't last long against those bullets."

Knuckles didn't waver. "Just do it."

Tails sighed, and flew past the fighters, until the Tornado 3 was directly above the speeder. Bullets riddled the shield, and it fizzled every few seconds. The bullets were exactly where Knuckles was hoping they would be. He leapt out of his seat, and onto the rear of the plane.

Knuckles took a deep breath and said, "Tails, lower the shield."

Tails looked back with a rare expression of doubt. "We'll be blown to smithereens in seconds!"

"Just do it!" Knuckles shouted.

Tails gulped, and pulled the switch. Knuckles held his breath. The shield faded. Bullets sped towards Knuckles. He held his fists out to his side. His wrists became a blur. Metal met metal. Knuckles stood unscathed as the bullets were flung back towards the fighters. Each one exploded in a fireball, destroyed by their own shots.

Knuckles breathed once more, but in a moment, he looked skyward. As Lambda dove towards the Tornado 3, the robot's silhouette blocked the low sun. Tails rolled out of the way, and Knuckles dug a fist into the plane's hull as he held on for dear life. "Bring the plane up, Tails!" Knuckles shouted.

Tails pulled the Tornado 3 into a near-vertical ascent. Lambda gave chase. It began to gain on Knuckles and Tails. "Okay, Tails," Knuckles said, "when I let go, you get out of here. You got that?" Tails said nothing, but he nodded. Knuckles let go. As he fell, he performed a half-flip, and brought both of his fists back. Lambda didn't back down. Knuckles brought his fists down, right into Lamda's head.

There was no effect. The blow didn't even make a dent. Knuckles' jaw dropped for a split second. Then, there was a spark. Knuckles went into spasms as the electric current passed through his shovel claws and into his body. He cried out in agony. It was a cry for help, but there was no one to answer.

Somehow, through the pain, Knuckles pushed his body off Lambda. His limp form dropped like a stone, but Knuckles felt nothing. His half-conscious mind barely noticed the approaching side of the GUN speeder. Knuckles' body was brought back to full awareness as he hit the speeder with a crunch. He dug a shovel claw into the hull.

The next thing Knuckles saw was Lamba's claws tearing through the hull on either side of him. It cut through the hull like Sonic had cut through Eggman's robots years ago. Knuckles forced himself back to reality. Once again, he'd need to follow a dead hero's foolhardy example. "Rouge, can you hear me?" Knuckles shouted.

"Of course I can, we've got freaking holes all over our hull!" she shouted back.

"I need you to launch one missile out in about a minute." Lambda was pulling up into a massive loop.

"What that's going to do? We can't get a lock!"

"You won't need to." Knuckles panted. "Just trust me."

Rouge was silent for a moment. "This had better work."

Knuckles pulled himself up onto the side of the speeder. He ran along it until he reached the cockpit. He didn't bother to look inside. Instead, he simply closed his eyes. The hissing of the leaking gas and the crackling of what little fire remained was all that he heard.

Then, there was a boom. Knuckles leapt off the speeder, and hit metal within a second. As he opened his eyes, he found himself riding the missile. Knuckles grinned as he felt the wind blow through his quills. He pulled the front of the missile towards him, and it pulled him up into a tight ascent.

Knuckles looked down, and saw Lambda pursuing him. Knuckles closed his eyes. Slowly, he slid his left fist down the missile. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. The last time he'd tried what he was about to do, he'd nearly died. Knuckles opened his eyes, and looked towards the clearing sky.

Knuckles roared as he spun the missile around. His blood swirled through him as he was pulled down with the missile. The pain of his last failure was gone. Lambda was mere metres away. Knuckles pushed himself off the missile. It hurtled straight into Lambda. The explosion flung Knuckles towards the ground. He ignored the pain as shrapnel lacerated his skin. He tried to glide, but failed. His arms flailed out, seeking in vain for salvation.

Suddenly, a familiar hand grasped his wrist. "Gotcha!" cried a familiar voice. Knuckles looked up, and saw Tails leaning out of the Tornado 3. Knuckles breathed a sigh of relief, but then winced as he saw the blood on his shovel claw, and the large gash on Tails arm. Tails smiled back. "I'll live. Besides, you've been through way worse for me."

Knuckles made a rare smile as Tails pulled him up onto the plane. They both looked towards the smoke. Lambda had been reduced to a falling pile of debris. Knuckles clambered into one of the passenger seats, and strapped himself in tightly. "How's the speeder looking?" he asked.

Tails turned the plane sharply, and flew above the GUN speeder. The fires had stopped, and it had turned back right-way up, but it was slowing down. "I think the engines got fried."

"Well, there go our supplies, then," Knuckles groaned.

Tails shook his head. "There's one thing I added to the Tornado 3 that I haven't told you about yet." He pressed a button on the console. Suddenly, a burst of green energy shot towards the speeder. It lifted the GUN speeder more than a metre off the ground, and as the Tornado 3 accelerated, the speeder kept up. Tails turned his head back to face Knuckles. "Tractor beam."

Knuckles shook his head as he sat agape at Tails' latest feat. "You never cease to amaze me."

Tails shrugged. "Yeah, well I thought I'd seen everything you could do, but you proved me wrong just then."

Knuckles leant back in his seat, and folded his arms across his chest. "Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking with that, if I was thinking at all. I swear, it was either madness, or brilliance."

Tails turned back to face the horizon. "It's remarkable how often those two threads coincide."


HA few hours later, the sun had set, but Knuckles could still see Angel Island as it approached. The island had remained in the exact location in the ocean where they'd left it. Knuckles could barely believe that they'd been gone for a whole day.

Knuckles' thoughts were interrupted as he saw Rouge fly out of the GUN speeder. She ascended and began to fly alongside the Tornado 3. "Could you try and land this thing on some flat ground?" she asked. "We want something left to take back to base"

"Well, if we drop the speeder off near the shrine, that ought to do it," Tails replied.

"Yeah, we'll be only be there for about an hour. Unfortunately we'll have to take some of your supplies to get the engines back up and running. Do you mind?"

Tails nodded. "It's fine by me. Is that okay with you, Knuckles?" Knuckles nodded vaguely.

Rouge turned her head to face Knuckles. "I never did get a chance to thank you. We'd probably be dead now if it wasn't for your suicidal behaviour."

"Think nothing of it," Knuckles mumbled. "I sure don't."

Rouge rolled her eyes. "Well, aren't you just a ball of sunshine?"

Knuckles glared at Rouge. "It's kind of hard to be one nowadays. Besides, since when were you someone to be in such a good mood?"

Rouge shrugged. "I guess it was when I realised that I could be dead right now." Rouge smirked. "Not that I'd expect an idiot like you to understand that."

Knuckles' glare turned into a scowl. "Okay, maybe you haven't realised yet, but we're in my home now, and in my home, no one insults me but me." As an afterthought, he added, "Well, alright, maybe Tails and Amy do, too."

Rouge glanced down. "Speaking of Amy..." She pointed toward the ground. Knuckles looked over the side of the plane, and saw that Amy was standing near the shrine of the Master Emerald. She was leaning on her hammer, tapping it rapidly with one of her fingers. Her scowl could be seen, even from as high up as Knuckles was.

Knuckles slumped back into his seat. "Great, just what I want right now," he groaned.

"Out of the frying pan," Rouge whispered.

"And into the fire," Tails added.

"Tell me about it," Knuckles muttered. A few seconds later, he asked, "What's a frying pan?" Tails and Rouge just stared at each other, and shook their heads.


A/N: General Michael Stuart is not the GUN Commander from Shadow the Hedgehog. For the purposes of this fanfic, the latter character died when the Eclipse Cannon destroyed North America. I don't claim that General Michael Stuart is a terrifically designed character on the surface, but I have given him a rather interesting bit of back-story that shall be revealed in a later chapter.

Next chapter: GUN asks Knuckles and co. to investigate a mysterious distress signal from an island that's supposed to be abandoned. Who sent the message, and why? No one can answer, but these will be the last questions on our heroes' minds, as they wind up fighting for their lives against an unseen foe. All this and more in "Chapter 5: Mysteries."
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