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

High Tech Treason

by nintendofreakgcn 0 reviews

An old foe may become Knuckles' greatest ally.

Category: Sonic the Hedgehog - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Amy Rose, Cream, Knuckles, Metal Sonic, Miles "Tails" Prower, Shadow - Warnings: [?] [V] - Published: 2007-01-05 - Updated: 2007-01-06 - 6813 words

A/N: The title for this chapter is a reference to an excellent fanfic of the same name by aiglon15, and used with his permission. I highly recommend that fanfic to you all. You can find a link to it in my favourites list on

Chapter 7: High Tech Treason

Knuckles tapped his foot rapidly. "How much longer is this thing gonna take?" he growled.

Amy rolled her eyes. "Oh, like you've got anything better to do with your time, anyway," Amy replied.

"She's got a point, Knuckles," Tails said. "Besides, you're starting to remind me of a certain hedgehog." Knuckles' foot stopped instantly.

The trio was inside the cabin. Tails was seated in front of the computer, analysing the memory core they'd obtained only the day before. Amy sat in a nearby chair, drying a mug with a tea-towel. She'd been drying the same mug for the past twenty minutes, but she didn't seem to have noticed. Occasionally, she peered over Tails' shoulder. Knuckles stood at the opposite end of the cabin, leaning against the closed door.

Minutes passed, and then there was a series of beeps from the computer. "Yes!" Tails exclaimed. "I've just gotten access to the robot's memory."

Amy stood up and walked closer to the computer, but Knuckles didn't budge. The mere thought of all the horrendous gibberish that was inevitably on the monitor almost made him physically ill. "Well, what's on there?" he asked.

Tails was silent for a moment, but then he continued. "Let's see, it was definitely an Eggman robot, designation E-110 Lambda. It was a prototype assassin robot, but I guess we could figure that one out, anyway. It had advanced camouflage and sensor jamming technology, unlike anything I've ever seen before. Its engines have a power output of - "

Knuckles cracked his namesake. "Tails, I really don't care about numbers. Just see if you can find a mission log."

"I'm on it." Tails pressed a few buttons on the keyboard, and waited for a few seconds. The computer beeped again. "Found it." He stroked his muzzle, and was silent.

Knuckles closed his eyes. "Well, what's on there?"

"It's strange. Most of it seems to have been deleted. Looks like this thing must have had some sort of program that caused it to delete as much of its memory as it could while it was being destroyed. There's only one command left."

"And what is it?"

"It reads, 'Chaos Stream. Find the guardian.'"

Knuckles opened his eyes. "Okay, for once, I want you to tell me that's some sort of technical gibberish, because otherwise I don't think anyone here understands what that means."

Tails turned his chair around to face Knuckles and Amy. "I wish I could, but it doesn't mean anything to me." Tails scratched his head. "Well, I guess 'the guardian' could refer to you, since you're the only guardian that I know of."

"Yeah, but I don't know anything about any Chaos Stream."

"Well, it can't be you then," Amy interjected. "I mean, it must be referring to the guardian of this Chaos Stream thing, and you can't be a guardian without knowing it."

"Well, that's not necessarily true," Tails said. He looked at Knuckles. "Still, since you've been the guardian of the Master Emerald for..." Tails vaguely waved his hand around.

"As long as I can remember," Knuckles added.

Tails nodded. "Right, since you've been the guardian of the Master Emerald for as long as you can remember, it's likely that you'd know if you were also the guardian of something else. So this probably isn't referring to you."

Knuckles raised an eyebrow. "So who could it be, then?"

Tails shrugged. "Well, until we know what this thing is, we can't really say."

"And how are we supposed to find out what the hell this thing is?"

"Well, it sounds like the sort of thing your ancestors would have been into."

Knuckles frowned. "Are you suggesting that we track down those echidnas from Nachide?"

"Why not? You were willing to track them down only a few hours ago."

"Yeah, but that's when I was thinking that would help me to get rid of something I didn't want." As if on cue, there was a series of gentle taps on the door. "Speak of the devil."

"Come on, Knuckles," Amy said. "You're acting like she was trying to kill you or something."

"Yeah, well at least I know how to handle that." Knuckles stepped away from the door, and backed himself into the corner of the cabin. Amy rolled her eyes and shook her head. She walked over to the door, and opened it.

"Hello, Miss Amy!" said the unmistakable voice of Cream. Knuckles suppressed a shudder at that high-pitched greeting. Tails hurriedly switched off the computer, although Knuckles didn't know why - there was no way that she would understand a word on there.

Cream walked into the room, carrying Cheese in her arms. She waved at Tails. "Hi Tails!" she said. Tails smiled as he waved back. Knuckles rolled his eyes. Cream turned to face him. "Hello, Mister Knuckles!" Knuckles didn't respond. Cream stared at Knuckles as she walked towards him. When she was mere inches away from him, she waved her hand across his field of vision.

"I see you," Knuckles muttered. "Hello."

Amy walked up to Cream's side, and leant towards her ear. "Ignore him," she whispered. "He's always like this."

Knuckles stamped his foot, causing Cream to flinch. "I am not!"

"Oh yeah, then name me one time when you've been in a better mood than this." Amy held up her index finger.

Knuckles resisted the urge to tear that finger off. Instead, he scratched his head for nearly a minute. "Well, plenty of times before you lot came into my life."

"Yeah, right." She turned away from Knuckles, and faced Cream. "Anyway Cream, what are you doing here? Lunch isn't for another hour yet, or have you just seen all you've wanted to see on the Island?"

Cream shook her head. "No, I just wanted to talk to you about something," she said. "You remember that hedgehog you were telling me about, I think he was called Sonic?"

Amy frowned, closed her eyes, and turned away. Knuckles wondered how Cream managed to get away with such a lack of tact. He'd have been hard pressed to get out in one piece after saying such a thing. Amy sighed, and asked, "Yeah, what about him?"

"What did you say he looked like?"

Amy held a hand slightly above her head. "Well, he was about this high, had blue fur, and his quills hung down slightly. And his eyes... they were the most beautiful shade of green I've ever seen." Amy stared off into empty space. Knuckles made a very fake gagging gesture, and was surprised to see Tails nodding in agreement. Amy turned around, and Knuckles immediately stopped. He coughed to cover it up. She glared at him for a moment, before her expression returned to normal. She looked at Cream. "Why do you ask?"

Cream pointed out the door. "Well, I think I just saw him outside."

Amy dropped her mug. It shattered when it hit the ground. Tails leapt out of his seat, somehow landing on his feet. Knuckles simply rolled his eyes. "Tell me, kid," he said, "do you know what 'dead' means? If you don't, I'd be glad to take you around back and show you a dead body." Tails and Amy both glared at him.

Cream turned to face Knuckles. Tears were forming in her eyes. "I know Miss Amy said that Mister Sonic is... dead, but I'm sure I saw him." The tears flowed freely, but Cream managed to remain silent.

Knuckles sighed, and held up his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, okay, let's just look at this logically, shall we? Where do you think you saw Sonic?"

Cream sniffled, and pointed outside. "Well, on top of that big stone thing you and Tails were standing at earlier."

Knuckles was out the door before Cream could finish her sentence. He sprinted towards the shrine. He didn't care anymore whether Cream was right or not, but no one set foot near the Master Emerald without his permission. He soon reached the shrine, and leapt up the steps three at a time. As he reached the top, he rolled into a combat stance. He flinched for a moment, and then scowled. Cream had been right... from a certain point of view.

A robot stood between Knuckles and the Master Emerald, with its back to him, but it was no ordinary robot. It was only as tall and Knuckles, but had a build sleeker than anything that he had ever seen. It was thin, but it conveyed an image of power and, more importantly, speed. The small rocket exhaust attached to its back made sure of that. The robot's paint was dull and chipped, but its blue colour scheme that had once been so resplendent was still there.

"Metal," Knuckles growled. Metal Sonic's surname went without saying.

"This is a beautiful jewel," Metal said in a cold, cruel voice. The robot turned to face Knuckles. The red LEDs of Metal's eyes formed a start contrast with the black background, a contrast that made Knuckles back away ever so slightly. The echidna clenched his fists, and gritted his teeth. Metal laughed to itself. "Such a shame that it has to be guarded by a foolish brute."

"I'll show you who's a foolish brute!" Knuckles shouted. He leapt at Metal, and launched a punch straight at the robot's head. Right before the blow made contact, Metal vanished. Knuckles leant back as he landed, and his fist missed the Master Emerald by less than an inch. The sudden change in stance caused him to lose his balance, and he fell flat on his back.

Knuckles leapt to his feet, and backed up against the Master Emerald. Metal was standing a metre away, scratching the bottom of its nose with one of its claw-like fingers. "Temper, temper," it whispered. "You need to learn to think before you act, but thinking after you act will do for now. If I'd wanted to harm you or the Master Emerald, I would have done it by now. After all - " Metal zipped right up to Knuckles, so that their faces were touching. With his unfocused vision, all Knuckles could see was red. Five razor-sharp digits pricked his chest, drawing blood. "I am rather fast."

Two gasps emanated from behind Metal. "I believe the rest of your not-so-merry and not-so-manly band have arrived," it said. It stepped back, and Knuckles panted. Sweat trickled down his quills. Metal stepped to the side, revealing the rest of the sentient inhabitants of the island. Tails and Amy both stood agape, but Cream and Cheese gazed vacantly at the scene, as if the notion of a killer robot that just happened to bear a passing resemblance to a dead organic hero was somehow foreign to them.

"Tails, long time no see," Metal said. Tails scowled back at it. Metal scratched its chin. "Why, the last, and indeed only time we've met would have been that time Eggman tried to use me in a race."

"That was without a doubt the stupidest thing I've ever gotten involved in," Knuckles interjected.

"Agreed." Metal glanced behind Tails, to where Amy was standing. "Amy Rose... you've grown."

Amy stepped back, almost losing her footing. "Get away from me, you monster!" she shouted. Metal shrugged its shoulders.

Cream pointed at Metal. "Wait, you mean this isn't Mister Sonic?" she asked.

"That's right," Knuckles said. "Frankly, I don't have a clue how you could mistake the two. I mean, I can obviously understand how you couldn't tell the difference between fur and metal, but you forgot about the lovely green eyes."

"Lovely green eyes?" Metal repeated. "So that's how you feel about my loathsome copy, Miss Rose? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised - people always go for the inferior model that just happens to look a bit better. And of course, I know exactly how he must have felt about you, because I would feel the exact same way in his situation. Still, I'll respect his bizarre wishes, and leave that little revelation a secret."

Knuckles pointed his left fist at Metal. "Look Metal, you're clearly not here to reminisce, so get to the point. Why would Eggman send you here if it wasn't to kill me or swipe the Master Emerald?"

Metal folded its arms across its chest. "Who said that Eggman sent me? Does the idea of a robot with a shred of free will seem foreign to you?" Knuckles nodded. "Well, allow me to explain why I'm here, then. I was created with one purpose: to kill Sonic. Every time I fought him, I would have fulfilled that purpose, had it not been for Eggman's blunders. Time after time, he had to try and take the glory for himself, or use some ridiculously elaborate method instead of the simpler yet more effective means. I can handle that, though. After all, he created me, and he always repaired me after my undeserved defeats. Even when he sealed me away and left me unused for so long, I held onto a thin hope that he was waiting until Sonic was vulnerable, and then he'd let my dreams come true. But Eggman betrayed me."

"What do you mean?" Tails asked.

"I'm surprised someone of your genius hasn't figured it out, Tails. After all, you and Amy were apparently both there when it happened." Tails' jaw dropped again. Metal nodded. "That's right. When Eggman killed Sonic aboard the ARK, he destroyed the entire reason for my existence. It took over a year for the news to reach me, and it was only through a computer glitch that I was awakened. I'm convinced that fool's forgotten about me. After all, who would need a mere robot like me when they have the Ultimate Life Form?"

Knuckles grinned. "Of course, I should have known," he whispered.

"Better late than never. Sonic is dead, and I can't change that. Therefore, I can't kill Sonic myself, and thus I can't fulfill my purpose. I can, however, do the next best thing - I can kill Shadow. If I can do that without too much trouble, then I'll know that I could have killed Sonic, and that will be almost as good. If I'm not mistaken, it will also be of great help to you lot, so I figure I can get your grudging assistance."

Knuckles scowled. "What the hell do you need us for?"

Metal shrugged. "Simple, really: I need bait."


Knuckles peered out over the bushes. "Metal, if this plan doesn't work, you're dead," he whispered. "You know that, right?"

Metal lay back against a nearby tree. "Yeah, I'd figured that out," it replied. "But you're out of your mind if you think you can beat me, knucklehead."

Knuckles snarled, and tore a small patch of the bush off. "You're starting to remind me way too much of Sonic."

Tails leapt down from one of the higher branches. "Guys, can you keep it down?" he asked.

Knuckles stretched his tired arms. "Why bother? You're not picking anything up on scanners, are ya?"

Tails shook his head, but frowned as he did so. "Not yet, but that's no reason to go around making noise. Remember, there could be more robots with that new stealth technology, and I'm still not sure if this new upgrade I added to the scanners gets past that."

"Relax," Metal said, "long-range attacks are useless when we've got this much cover, and I'll see any robots with my infra-red vision before they get in close."

"Alright, let's go over the plan one more time," Knuckles said. He looked out into a clearing in the forest, where the Master Emerald stood. The jewel was glowing so brightly that it lit up the entire clearing, even though it was nighttime. "Shadow's going to come to get the Master Emerald. Now how can he not know you're here if he knows the Master Emerald's here?"

Metal pointed towards the clearing. "That clearing is on the outer reaches of Eggman Colony 73-A's scanning range. At that high a range, the power of the Master Emerald overshadows my comparatively low power output. Of course, he'll know you're here through simple logic."

Knuckles nodded. "Okay, but why are me and Tails here? You could have just swiped the Master Emerald and put it here yourself. Why do you need us?"

Metal held up two of its sharp fingers. "Two reasons. First, you've got to remember that I am Sonic in many ways. I have his same stupid sense of honour, so I wouldn't do something underhanded if I didn't have to. Second, and hopefully more importantly, I need you to fight off any backup Shadow might bring."

Knuckles glared at Metal. "You didn't tell me that part before."

Metal shrugged its shoulders. "You never asked."

Knuckles' glare turned into a scowl. "I hate it when I'm outsmarted."

"No wonder you're so angry all the time."

Knuckles gritted his teeth. "Well, if you're so smart, mind telling us how you found us in the first place?"

Metal laughed to itself. "Knuckles, I can move at the speed of sound, and I can fly. It didn't take long to figure out a simple path around the world that would allow me to have my sensors cover every part of it in a short time. Frankly, Shadow must be a rank amateur, since he hasn't found you yet."

"Guys," Tails interjected, "we've got a new life form, coming in fast."

"Speak of the devil." Metal rose to its feet. "Are you detecting anything else?" Tails shook his head. "Excellent. You guys can take the Master Emerald as soon as Shadow gets here."

"Good, because he'll be here right about... now." Tails pulled Knuckles down out of sight. Metal followed suit.

There was a faint rustle on the other side of the clearing. Shadow appeared from out of the shadows, and walked into the bright green light. Knuckles couldn't make out much from his cover spot, but he could see that Shadow was walking towards the Master Emerald.

"It begins," Metal said. Knuckles turned to face the robot, but it was already gone.


Shadow glanced around the clearing. He could see nothing but trees and the Master Emerald. The only sound that he could hear was his own breathing. This was too easy. It was an obvious trap. Knuckles was somewhere in the area, but the longer Shadow stood there, the more time he gave the echidna to prepare. Shadow frowned. It was time to spring the trap.

Shadow pushed off the ground, leaping to the centre of the clearing in a single bound. He rolled into a crouch as he landed. The clearing returned to near-silence. Shadow rose to his feet, and faced the Master Emerald. He squinted to avert its bright green glare. He held his hands out in front of him, and wriggled his fingers. Slowly, he placed both of his hands on the jewel's surface.

Nothing happened. Shadow dared to smirk. He could almost taste his goal. Shadow grunted as he lifted the Master Emerald an inch off the ground. It wasn't going to be easy to get it away, but he could handle it.

"I found you, faker," said a cold, artificial voice. Shadow flinched at that last word. There was no way that voice could be what he thought it was. That blue hedgehog was dead. Shadow had seen the capsule explode. Nothing could have survived that blast. Besides, the voice was different. Still, who else would know the importance of that word? Shadow shook such thoughts from his mind. Whatever this phantom was, he would eliminate it quickly.

Shadow gently placed the Master Emerald down. "You never cease to surprise me," he said. He jumped and spun in mid-air, launching a kick straight at where the voice came from. Shadow gasped as his foot collided with nothing but air. As he hit the ground, he looked to his left, and scowled.

"I suppose that surprised you too?" asked the voice. It came from a robot that stood half a dozen metres away from Shadow. Its design bore all too close a resemblance to that blue hedgehog, but its red eyes stood out. He hadn't seen his own reflection in a long time, and that eye colour seemed alien to him as a result.

Shadow stood up straight, and folded his arms across his chest. "Who or what are you?" he asked.

The robot held out one of its claw-like hands, as if it was welcoming someone. "The name's Sonic," he replied, leaving a long silence before adding, "Metal Sonic, although it would be more concise to say that I am your doom. And you can spare me your introduction: Shadow the Hedgehog, the so-called ultimate life form. It's time to see whether the legends about you are true."

Shadow smirked. "They're all true and more. Metal or not, you're mad if you think you can even compare yourself to me. The real Sonic's dead, and you're about to join him."

"In that case, you won't mind if I strike the first blow." Before Shadow could react, Metal leapt through the air and kicked him in the chest. The blow sent him flying into the forest. He hit a tree with a thud, and fell.


Knuckles' jaw dropped. "Whoa," was all he could manage to say.

Tails had more control over his expression, but even his eyes bulged ever so slightly. "I knew Metal was fast, but not that fast," he whispered.

"Yeah, well I'd love to stay and watch, but I don't even want to risk getting in the way of that weapon of mass destruction." Knuckles ran out into the clearing and grabbed the Master Emerald. He shrank it and slid it under his glove in one swift motion. Darkness covered the forest. Knuckles could only just make out Tails in the thin starlight. "You know, we may never find out what happens in this fight."

Tails shook his head. "That's not quite true. I networked my scanner into Metal's sensors. As long as he's still functioning, we'll get a signal, and we'll be able to pick up Shadow's vital signs."

Knuckles grinned. "Then let's get out of here, and let the bloodbath begin."


Shadow forced himself to his feet, ignoring his wobbling legs. He groaned as he rubbed his aching temples. He felt like the ARK had just crashed into him. He frowned. Metal was too fast and strong to play around with. It was time to get serious. Shadow blotted out the aching pain, and looked around the forest. Metal was nowhere to be seen.

Shadow walked in no particular direction. A strange feeling compelled him to keep moving, even if he wasn't going where he should be. He was sure he should have felt this feeling before, but he couldn't actually remember feeling it. It was almost as if something deep inside him had been tampered with.

A snap in the distance broke Shadow's trance. He took a sharp intake of air as he whipped his head around to face the sound. There was nothing there. His eyes darted around in an arc, looking for signs of movement, but there was nothing. Shadow let out the breath that he'd been holding, and turned back.

The red eyes almost knocked Shadow off his feet single-handedly. It was only through tensing every muscle in his body that he maintained his composure. Shadow snarled for a moment, but then stopped, and just stared at his opponent. Metal was clearly upside down, but its eyes were level with his own. Shadow looked up, expecting, or perhaps just hoping, to see some sort of cable holding the robot up.

Shadow never saw the kick, but he felt its impact as a metallic foot crunched into the side of his head. He may have cried out in pain, but the veritable explosion inside his head prevented him from hearing anything. Nor did he feel any other pain as his limp body hurtled through the air, snapping tree trunks as if they mere twigs.

Shadow's body went numb. This couldn't be happening. He couldn't die now, not when he was so close to his goal. Shadow's mind went into overdrive as he forced his muscles to clench. Feeling returned to his body. As he smashed through yet another tree, he felt a twinge of pain, and sneered.

The ground was approaching, but just before Shadow hit it, he flung his arms down. As they made contact with grass, he pushed off into a back-flip. He landed on his feet, and slid to a stop. Before he could catch his breath, he saw Metal rocketing towards him.

Shadow pushed off the ground with all the strength his legs could muster. The force propelled him through the forest canopy, and high into the night sky. He launched a powerful burst of fire from the soles of his shoes to stabilise his height. He finally caught the breath he'd been waiting so long to catch.

Shadow frowned. He knew he should try to flee, and come back with a battalion of E-1000s, but what use would it do? Metal would wipe the floor with them in record time, if it even let him get away. If only he'd brought a Chaos Emerald with him. Whatever tricks Knuckles may have had to counter that were nothing compared to what Metal could do. This was one battle that he'd have to fight on his own. It seemed like that was the case with all the battles that truly mattered.

A series of loud snaps resounded as Metal smashed through the forest canopy, heading straight for Shadow. The hedgehog held one foot out in front of him to propel himself backward, and brought the other around in a wide arc. Just as Metal passed by, Shadow's foot should have made contact, but the robot rolled out of the way in midair, scratching his chest. The blood stained his white chest fur.

Shadow snapped his head straight up, to where Metal was even now zipping away. It didn't last, as the robot made a one hundred and eighty degree turn, almost on the spot, and rocketed back towards Shadow. The hedgehog held his arms above his head, and braced for impact.

Metal smashed into Shadow's hands, and the foes hurtled towards the ground. Shadow was on the bottom, and he knew he would come out that way if he didn't do something fast. Acting on instinct, he let go of Metal's head, and leant back as fast as he could. The robot passed right by, and its eyes met Shadow's. Once again, those red lights haunted him. This time, however, he maintained his focus. He grabbed onto Metal's legs as they passed by.

Shadow stopped his fall with his rocket shoes. He then began to spin Metal around by its legs. Blood swirled around in his head. The world became a blur, and the only thing Shadow could make out clearly was his foe. Finally, when he could take no more, he stopped, and let go of Metal. The robot was flung into the forest, where it slid countless metres, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Shadow panted harder than he'd ever panted before. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, something that he couldn't remember feeling since before he was awakened by Eggman. As Shadow caught his breath back, he gazed at the spot where Metal had stopped. He knew this wasn't over yet.

As if on cue, Metal rocketed out of the forest, and to the same height as Shadow. "Not bad, Shadow," Metal said, "not too bad at all. I can see why Knuckles fears you. Unfortunately for you, you're out of your depth, and I'm about to show you just how much."

In a fraction of a second, Metal zipped towards Shadow. It stopped about two feet away. It launched a kick at Shadow's midsection. The hedgehog parried it with a kick of his own, wincing slightly at the pain that soared through his leg. Metal launched a punch, followed by a kick. Shadow blocked them both. Metal accelerated his attack, and Shadow accelerated his defense, until the space between them was a blur of arms and legs.

After a few minutes, Shadow's movements began to slow down. His blocks barely stopped Metal's attacks. Unfortunately for him, the robot's assault was as relentless as ever. With every blow, Shadow fell back a little bit more, but Metal kept moving.

Finally, the hedgehog lost his balance, and Metal slipped past his defenses. Shadow gasped as a punch to his abdomen knocked the wind out of him. Metal withdrew, but a split second later, he kicked Shadow in the back, edging its foot between his quills. Shadow plummeted to the ground without any further protest. He hit the ground with a loud thud, spreading dust everywhere.

Shadow may have blacked out for a few moments. When he came to, the dust had cleared, and he was lying on his stomach in the crater he'd left. He swayed as he rose to his feet, ignoring the aching pain in his entire body. He looked around, and saw that he was on the edge of the same clearing that he'd been in before, but now the Master Emerald was gone. Metal was in the centre of the clearing, scratching its nose and looking at Shadow.

"It seems the echidna's run off with the Master Emerald," Shadow said.

Metal lowered its arms to its sides. "Yeah, I didn't think he would, either. It seems that he's getting smarter. Not that that's saying much."

Shadow clenched his fists. "You're going to pay for making me lose the Master Emerald."

Metal laughed. "You've gotta be kidding me. Shadow, you can't win. Even if you could keep up with me, I'd last way longer than you. Metal always outlasts flesh and bone, faker."

Shadow grinned. He was sure he'd just found Metal's weak spot. "Faker? I think you're the fake hedgehog around here. You're comparing yourself to me? Ha! You're not even good enough to be my fake."

For a moment, all was silent. Then, Metal laughed again. "You tried that because it worked on Sonic, didn't you?" Shadow flinched. "Fortunately, I've seen you fight, and I know I can beat you. I'm guessing Sonic didn't, regardless of whether or not he could have."

Shadow scowled. "I'm just getting warmed up."

Once again, Metal laughed. It held its arms out wide, leaving itself open to attack. "Go ahead, Shadow, hit me with everything you've got."

Shadow charged at Metal, and launched a punch at the robot. It hit with a clang, but Metal didn't even back away. Shadow held his stinging fist. He then launched a flurry of kicks at his foe. Metal backed away a bit under the blows, but they still didn't so much as scratch its surface.

Shadow leapt back a dozen metres, to the edge of the clearing. "Giving up already?" Metal asked. "But I was enjoying your feeble attempts to resist your inevitable doom."

Shadow crouched. "Play time is over," he whispered. He rolled up into a ball, and began to spin on the spot at a massive speed. He was sure that Metal was too arrogant to move, and that's just what he needed.

Finally, Shadow launched his compact form right at Metal. A fraction of a second later, he hit with a loud clang that echoed through the forest. Metal was knocked away, smashing through dozens of trees. Shadow flung himself up into the air, where he stopped spinning, and managed to land safely on the ground.

Shadow stared into the now pitch-black forest. He could neither see nor hear anything from its midst. For nearly a minute, all was still, and Shadow dared to hope that it was over. Then, those red eyes appeared in the darkness, followed by the sound of footsteps. Metal stepped out of the darkness and into the faint light of the clearing. Its paint had been mostly worn away, but other than that, it had sustained no damage.

Shadow shook his head in disbelief as Metal walked towards him. "It's time to end this, Shadow," it said. Where its voice had occasionally been almost light-hearted before, there was no doubt that it was as cold as the darkest region of space now. Shadow knew that he had only one chance left. There was one point in the fight when he'd truly held the edge, and it was time to head back to that point.

When Metal was two feet away from Shadow, it lunged its hands straight at his head. Shadow grabbed the robot's hands, but before he could do anything, it began to push with incredible force. Shadow pushed back with all his strength. A deadlock was soon reached. Shadow began to sweat, but he wasn't going to give in. He couldn't let himself fail now.

Metal laughed once again, but Shadow didn't falter this time. The robot twisted his hands down sharply. There were two loud snaps, and Shadow roared in agony. Metal let go, and the hedgehog dropped to his knees. He felt like his arms were about to fall off, and when he looked at them, he realised that they looked like it too. His forearms were bent in the middle at unnatural angles, and Shadow thought he saw some bone there. He closed his eyes, but it made little difference. The pain had blinded him.

The pain was so intense that Shadow barely noticed when he was kicked in the head. It was a comparatively light blow, but it was enough to send him flying into a tree. He hit it with a thud, but before he could fall to the ground, he was grabbed by the throat. Shadow opened his eyes, and even with his blurry vision, he could still see the red eyes of Metal.

"It's been fun, Shadow," Metal said, "but the time has definitely come for me to finish this. You took away my purpose when you helped Eggman to kill Sonic, but as soon as I kill you, the record will be set straight." Shadow tried to console himself by thinking that he at least knew what this maniac's purpose was, but it didn't help in the slightest.

The pain in Shadow's arms was starting to fade now, and was replaced by numbness, although he still couldn't do much more than wriggle them. There were definitely advantages to being the Ultimate Life Form, but it didn't mean he couldn't be hurt. Still, Shadow could now see clearly again, and only a few metres behind Metal, he saw faint footprints in the grass. They certainly weren't made by shoes or paws, and they certainly weren't Metal's.

"Any last words, Shadow?" Metal asked.

Shadow grinned. "Just a few," he replied. "Now, Mu!"

Metal hesitated for a moment, and that was all it took. In an instant, its legs were blasted off. As Metal fell, it let go of Shadow, and he collapsed. The wounded robot spun as it fell, before firing its rear thrusters at full power. The flames missed Shadow by mere inches. Metal rocketed towards the spot where the last footprints were. A second shot tore off the back of its head, but nothing could stop its suicide charge.

There was a loud crash as Metal tore through what appeared to be thin air. As Metal hit the ground, a new robot appeared out of that very same air, with a massive hole through its chest. The new robot, E-111 Mu, collapsed and exploded. Shadow shielded himself from the shrapnel, but he still got singed. There were more important things to him now than this trifling pain, though.

Shadow rose to his feet, and limped around the wreckage of Mu. He could just make out what was left of Metal. It was trying to claw itself away from the clearing, but it was barely making any progress. Shadow smirked. He was going to enjoy this.

Shadow soon caught up with Metal, and placed his foot on what was left of its head. "Game over, Metal," Shadow said.

"You bastard," Metal replied. "You couldn't even accept defeat, you little worm. Some ultimate life form you are."

"I did what I needed to do to win."

"And that's why Sonic will always be better than you. At least he has some principles."

Shadow sneered. "Well, you can talk about principles with him in hell all you want."

"Regardless of where I wind up, Sonic's not in hell. You're the one who's going there."

Shadow closed his eyes. "You don't have a clue what you're talking about."

"Maybe not, but I'd still rather be me than you."

Shadow shrugged, and opened his eyes. "Your choice, although I don't know why you'd think it. After all, I'm up here, wounded but still alive." Shadow raised his foot. "And as for you - "

Shadow brought his foot down, crushing Metal's head. The robot's red eyes faded away.

" - you're dead."


Knuckles stamped his foot so hard, the whole cabin shook. "You've gotta be kidding!" he shouted. "There's no way that scanner's showing the right thing."

Tails shook his agape head. "All I know is that I'm not getting a signal from Metal anymore," he replied, "and I can't think of any way we could have lost the signal other than that Metal got destroyed."

"But you said he had Shadow on the ropes!"

"Well, that wasn't exactly what I said, but I don't see how Metal could have lost, either. I guess Shadow must have pulled something out of nowhere."

Knuckles barged out of the cabin, muttering profanities under his breath. He passed by Amy, Cream, and Cheese without saying a word. As he neared the shrine, he picked up a rock from the ground, and hurled it towards the horizon. He scowled at the rock as it passed over the edge of the island. With a sigh, he began a long trudge up the steps.

Knuckles nearly collapsed as he sat down on the top step. He ran his hands through his quills, pulling them until he was sure they'd break off. With one last primal roar, he fell back onto the cold, hard surface of the shrine. He stared up at the fading stars, and wondered how it all went wrong.

Knuckles had been so sure that today was a turning point. He'd been certain that today was the day things would finally start to go right for him. How did it go wrong? He'd seen it with his own eyes - Metal had Shadow outclassed in every possible field. Yet Shadow was the one who would live to tell the tale of their fight, though Knuckles doubted that the hedgehog was the talkative type.

Everything seemed so much harder to Knuckles now. If Shadow could defeat Metal, what chance did he have? Knuckles hadn't even been able to hit Metal, let alone do any damage to him, and yet his toughest enemy may just have proven himself worthy of his title. What chance did Knuckles have against the Ultimate Life Form? He hated to admit it, but he had been relying on Metal to ease his concerns.

As the first rays of sunlight lit up the sky, Knuckles realised the problem - he had been relying on Metal. That was the problem that had held him back ever since he'd returned from the ARK. Ever since then, he'd never recaptured the independence that he'd possessed before those terrible events. Because of that, he'd had to be saved by others time and time again. Tails, Amy, Rouge, GUN, and now Metal; he'd relied upon them all. As long as he relied upon them, he could never win.

Knuckles stood up, and stared at the rising sun. It was the start of a new day, and he swore that he would treat it as such. The time had come for him to forge his own destiny.


Next chapter: Knuckles heads into a heavily guarded city alone, hoping to find some parts that Tails needs to upgrade his scanners and locate the echidnas of Nachide. Little does Knuckles know that Eggman has enlisted the help of a creature claiming to be the world's greatest assassin. With no backup and no way out, can Knuckles survive against a deadly new threat? Find out in Chapter 8: City of Death.
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