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


by nintendofreakgcn 3 reviews

When Sonic dies, Tails and Knuckles are forced to fight a guerilla war against the new Eggman Empire. Please read and review.

Category: Sonic the Hedgehog - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Amy Rose, Dr. Robotnik, Knuckles, Miles "Tails" Prower, Sonic - Warnings: [!!] [?] [V] - Published: 2006-01-16 - Updated: 2006-01-16 - 9451 words

Chapter 1: Reunion

A lone figure stood at the end of the alley. He wore a black cloak that reached down to his feet, with a hood that completely concealed his face in shadow. He stood about three feet tall. In one large, gloved hand, he held a small communicator.

"I copy, Red Rad," came a voice from the communicator. "Just give me a second to get a hold on your position."

The hooded figure leaned back against the wall. He hoped this wouldn't take long. This city gave him the creeps. He was watching the street beyond, ever-watchful for anyone who might be listening.

"I've got your position, Red Rad," said the voice. "Proceed towards the target. I'll keep an eye on you from here."

The hooded figure cleared his throat, and in a deep voice, whispered, "I copy, Fox Boy. Over and-"

The voice interrupted him. "Oh, Knuckles, be careful." The figure cringed at the mention of his real name. When would Tails ever learn the importance of security?

"I hear ya. Over and out." Knuckles pressed a button on the communicator, ensuring that no sound on his end could be heard on the other. Tails would still be able to keep track of him through the communicator's radar function, and it would probably be best if he didn't hear what was going on. He had a feeling that things were going to get ugly.

Knuckles walked out of the alley briskly, making sure that no one had seen him. There wasn't much of a chance in this part of the city at this time of night, but you could never be too careful. He headed toward the centre of the city. He'd heard that this city had once been called Tokyo, but now, like all the others, it had no name.

A strong gust of wind blew by. Knuckles shivered and pulled his cloak closer to himself. He had been in sub-zero conditions before, but this sort of cold was different. It seemed that, for every degree the temperature dropped, one's hope dropped with it. As if on cue, he passed by a homeless, withered old man. The man held up a plate in hope, but Knuckles gave him nothing. He couldn't risk drawing attention to himself. To show compassion was to draw attention to yourself. In a past time, he might have stopped to help no matter what the risk, but not now. The reason was staring him straight in the face.

Knuckles sank back into the shadows. His attention had been caught by a nearby poster. The words "Wanted: Reward Offered" stared him straight in the face, and beneath the words was a picture of himself and Tails. Without hesitation, he tore it down in one swift motion and dropped it in a nearby bin. He hoped no one had noticed. He sometimes wondered if anyone paid any attention to those posters. He wondered if there were people out there, looking for him, hoping to catch him and take him in to the police. He hoped not, but deep down, he knew that few knew his true cause, and in this day and age, the promise of money was enough to get people to do practically anything. People needed the money.

Knuckles quickened his pace as he passed out of the slums and into the more "civilised" areas of town. Of course, "civilised" was only what Eggman considered to be so. That meant that there were no homes, massive skyscrapers dominated the landscape and squads of E-1000s roamed the area to keep everyone in order. He hoped not to run into them, but part of him knew that it was inevitable. If he could just stay out of sight for a little while longer, then he could fight them slightly more on his own terms.

Agonising minutes passed as he walked further into the heart of the city. He once heard a faint siren in the distance, but other than that there had been no sign of any E-1000s. Knuckles couldn't shake the feeling that something was up.

Then he saw a massive skyscraper rise up out of the rest of the skyline. The mountain of shiny metal was hundreds, if not thousands, of stories high, and at its peak stood a model of a face that he knew and loathed. It was the face of Eggman. Knuckles had arrived at the fiend's base of operations in this city. Knuckles turned his gaze towards ground level, where a 50-foot tall statue of Eggman stood. One arm was by his side, and the other was held out, his palm vertical as if trying to stop something.

A siren wailed from around the corner. Knuckles jumped into a nearby alley and threw his cloak over himself. As the hover-car carrying the E-1000s roared by, Knuckles felt his heart skip a beat. He could defeat one of those robots with ease, but fifty was an entirely different matter.

The siren gradually faded away. Knuckles took a moment to catch his breath. That had been too close. For one moment, he considered making a break for it, but he knew that there was no turning back now. Standing up, he turned towards a wall. He dug one fist into it, and then dug another one in slightly higher. He then began to climb, continually digging his fists in higher and higher and taking the rest of his body with him. It was several minutes before he reached the rooftop of the skyscraper. He looked across to where Eggman's headquarters stood. Although it stood considerably taller than the building on which he was standing, Knuckles was confident that he could get to somewhere near the top. A quick glance around indicated that the patrols must have been around the other side of the building. It was now or never.

Knuckles started running. He gripped his cloak as he neared the edge. Tensing his muscles for a split second, he leapt. He let the wind carry him as he neared the skyscraper. For one brief moment, he was far away, back at Angel Island, years ago. Before he knew Sonic, before he knew Tails, before he knew Eggman. He was in heaven.

Knuckles' daydreaming was interrupted as he hit the wall. He dug his fists in, hanging on for dear life. He knew he shouldn't look down, but he did anyway. He could barely make out the ground below: it was all just a swirling mass. Knuckles shut his eyes and looked up. He was just a short distance away from the window to the top storey. The window was the eye on the model of Eggman's face. He was going to enjoy this.

Hearing a siren, Knuckles knew he had to do this now. He looked to his left and saw a helicopter rounding one corner of the building, and a quick glance to his right indicated that another helicopter was coming around the other corner. Knuckles pushed himself off the wall, gliding toward the window as he rose. The guns fired. He winced as the window shattered. A second later, he hit the floor. As he looked out the window, he saw the flaming wreckage of both helicopters falling toward the ground. He was glad Eggman always thought big.

"So, you came," said a voice. It seemed to come from all around him. It was a voice Knuckles hadn't heard in a long time, yet one he knew all too well.

"Eggman," Knuckles replied. "You know why I'm here."

"Indeed I do. Hand over the Master Emerald!"

Knuckles withdrew a small gem from under his glove. It instantly increased in size to fill the palm of his hand. "Here it is. But first you need to fulfil your part of the bargain. Release Amy Rose."

There was an ominous pause. "Hand it over first."

"I won't hand it over until you hand over Amy." Knuckles shrunk the Master Emerald and slipped it back under his glove, so as to prove his point.

"It seems to me like you don't have a choice. I have the entire security force heading to this floor as we speak, and helicopters are ready to cut off any escape out the window."

Knuckles raised his fists. "Bring 'em on! I'll tear those rust-buckets apart!" His mixed expression of anger and confidence was one that hadn't been on his face since the founding of the Eggman Empire.

Knuckles heard Eggman laugh to himself. "Who are you trying to convince?" Knuckles' composure wavered. "Very well, Knuckles. I could have been lenient. I could have held up my part of the bargain. But now the deal is off. Instead of just taking the Master Emerald, I will take your life as well!"


Tails leapt up in his seat. He couldn't believe what he was seeing on his scanner. One hundred E-1000s were bearing in on Knuckles' position. In just one minute, the top floor would be invaded by the first wave. There was no way Knuckles could stand against such numbers. He hurriedly grabbed his communicator.

"Knuckles, come in!" he yelled, not caring for the stealthy approach any more.

"Hey Tails," Knuckles replied, remaining strangely calm. "Got any bright ideas?"

"I don't know, I'm working on it!" Thirty seconds. Tails zoomed out on his scanner. His eyes darted across the resulting map of the building. Fifteen seconds. Suddenly, he saw something. "Knuckles! Run through the door in front of you, and take a left." Ten seconds.


"Just trust me!" Tails saw Knuckles' blip move away from his current position. Five seconds. He was nearly past the elevator. Zero seconds. Static erupted across the screen.


Knuckles dove as the elevator doors opened. The communicator flew from his hand as machine-gun fire filled the room. The device was instantly destroyed. Knuckles got up and sprinted through the door. He moved to the side of the doorway. As an E-1000 moved through, Knuckles threw his cloak at it. That moment of blindness was all he needed. He punched the robot, sending it flying backwards. The wrecked robot bowled over the rest of the group. Machine-gun fire burst out everywhere. After the dust had settled, Knuckles was the only one left standing.

But he knew it wasn't over yet. More groups were coming, and now he had lost contact with Tails. Then he remembered that Tails had given him instructions. He had already taken the left turn, but there seemed to be nothing other than the elevator here. Looking behind him, he saw that the room extended into a corridor lined with doors, but there was nothing at the end of it. He couldn't possibly search all of the rooms before the next group came. He needed a plan. Looking at the elevator door, he grinned. He'd found his plan. He reached for the door and carefully pushed the tips of his fingers into the gap between the two halves. Then, with all his might, he moved his hands apart, opening the door. He leapt and grabbed a hold of a cable. He looked down the seemingly bottomless shaft. "Note to self," he whispered, "stop doing that."

His thoughts were interrupted by a loud roar beneath him. Knuckles felt himself hurtling downwards as he kept a tight grip on the cable. Looking down, he saw the elevator racing upwards. It was now or never. Keeping a hold on the cable with his left hand, Knuckles let his right hand drop to his side. He took a deep breath. Then he roared as his right hand slashed through the cable. For an instant, everything seemed frozen in place. Then the elevator plummeted, as Knuckles held onto the cable that was taking him to the top of the shaft. Just before he reached the top, he leapt through the open elevator doors. He winced as he heard a loud crashing sound from the elevator shaft.

"That ought to hold them for a while," Knuckles said to himself. "Now to find out what Tails was telling me about." Knuckles walked down the corridor he had seen earlier. Like the rest of the interior of the building, it was drab. The walls were grey, and the doors barely stood out at all. But there wasn't any time to think about things like that. Tails had seen something somewhere around here. Although Knuckles didn't know for sure, he guessed that it one of two things: the place where they were holding Amy or a route of escape. Either one of those would be welcome right now.

Knuckles went to work, as he checked every room as he slowly moved up the long corridor. But none of the rooms seemed to contain either Amy or a route of escape. Knuckles knew that he was running out of time. There was bound to be another way of getting to the top floor, and although it would probably be slower than the elevator, it would still take far less time than Knuckles would like it to. He finally came to the last door in the corridor. As he tried to open it, Knuckles realised it was locked. That was promising. He pulled his right arm back, and then sent his fist hurtling towards the door. The blow sent the door flying off its hinges, allowing Knuckles to step into the room.

He gasped. This room was completely different from the others. The others rooms had just been offices full of filing cabinets and television monitors. This room however, was more like an arena, as shown by the large grandstands that spread along the walls. The room was truly massive, with a floor space larger than most houses. The ceiling was very high as well, and the combination made Knuckles feel very small.

Looking closer at the ceiling, Knuckles realised why Tails had told him to come here. There was a large skylight on the ceiling. Although it was hardly an ideal escape route, it would certainly do the job. But before Knuckles could do anything, he was blinded by a red light.


Tails took several deep breaths. He knew he had to stay calm. Just because he had lost contact did not mean that Knuckles was dead. He had to hold on to what little hope was left. But at the same time, Tails knew that Knuckles wouldn't last long against Eggman's forces, especially since Tails hadn't been able to give the last of his instructions to Knuckles. Tails knew that he had to do something.

"What would Sonic do?" Tails whispered to himself, even though he knew the answer. Sonic wouldn't stay where it was safe when one of his friends was in danger. He had shown that over a year ago on ARK. A nagging voice of doubt in Tails mind reminded him that Sonic was now dead because of that. Tails pushed those thoughts out of his mind. If Tails hadn't let Eggman know that Sonic held the fake Chaos Emerald, then he would still be alive.

And yet, in spite of that, Sonic hadn't blamed Tails for what had happened. All he had said were five simple words: "I'm counting on you, Tails." The words flashed through Tails' mind once more. That had been the first time that Sonic had ever asked Tails to do anything for him. Sonic had always been the one helping Tails; had the time now come to return the favour?

Tails got up out of his chair and left the cabin. It was raining outside, but he didn't care. The scenery on Angel Island had always helped Tails to calm his mind. But now, it all seemed strangely distant. Tails instead found himself looking down a runway towards his own creation: the Tornado 3. It had been made to replace the Tornado 2, which had been destroyed when Tails was fighting Eggman aboard ARK. The newer plane was basically the same design, although with some minor changes to make it faster and more powerful. He had also, for reasons that he didn't truly know, added an extra seat. He had kept the Tornado 2's blue colour scheme, to remind him of better times.

The fact that the Tornado 3 could be seen so clearly, even through the rain, unnerved Tails. It seemed as if even the weather was taunting him. He knew that the Tornado 3 could get him to Knuckles' location in a very short time. And yet, what good would it do? His defeat on ARK had made Tails realise that he wasn't cut out for combat. Surely, he would face a similar defeat if he tried to help Knuckles. Sonic's last moments flashed across Tails' mind once more.

"I'm counting on you, Tails."

And even with the many doubts that plagued Tails' mind, he knew that, as long as Amy was a prisoner, she couldn't take care of herself.


Knuckles raised one of his hands in an attempt to block the red light, but the light had already moved. The light, which Knuckles now realised was actually a laser, had moved down to his chest, and was now pointed directly at his heart. Knuckles' eyes followed the laser back to its source: a robot that was standing in the shadows. Its shape reminded Knuckles of an E-1000, and yet it was different somehow.

The robot slowly stepped out of the shadows, its mechanical footsteps echoing throughout the room. As the robot came into full view, Knuckles gasped. This robot couldn't be an E-1000. Those robots had arms that ended in simple machine guns. This robot's arms were different. The arm from which the laser was coming did have a machine gun on the end, but it also had a large missile launcher attached to it.

But it was the other arm that shocked Knuckles more. It ended in a large claw-like hand, and in that hand's grip was none other than the one whom Knuckles had come here for: Amy Rose. She still wore the same red dress, white gloves and red shoes that she had worn on that fateful day over a year ago, and by the looks of things, they hadn't been washed since then. She was covered in grime, and even her bright-pink quills had been dulled by the passage of time. But where Knuckles saw the greatest change was in her eyes. They were no longer wide and bright like they had been; instead a strange emptiness filled them. For the first time since his encounters with the spirit of the echidna girl Tikal, Knuckles felt pity for someone.

Knuckles assumed a combat stance. Now was definitely not the time for emotions. Knuckles knew that he was going to have to fight his way out of this situation, and now that he had a chance to free Amy as well, he wasn't going to go home empty-handed. He would need a clear mind to pull this one off. Knuckles remained still, determined to let the robot to make the first move. One of his eyes was fixated on Amy, the other on the weapons at the end of the robot's right arm. He would be ready for anything.

But, to Knuckles surprise, the robot didn't fire. Instead, it spoke. "My master wishes to speak with you," it said in a deep, monotone voice.

Knuckles glared at the robot, but the green lights that it had for eyes showed no sign of noticing this. "I've already said what I have to say to Eggman," Knuckles replied. "The conditions are exactly the same as they were then."

For a moment, it sounded like the robot was laughing. But then Knuckles recognised the voice as Eggman's. Unlike before, he now seemed content to only have one speaker, as opposed to the large number he had had before. "That's where you're wrong, Knuckles," the voice said. "The conditions have changed. The new conditions are as follows: hand over the Master Emerald, or the girl dies." As the words were finished, the robot pointed its gun directly at Amy's head. The red laser-sight could just be made out against her pink quills. Knuckles flinched ever so slightly. "Oh and by the way, I wouldn't try to fight this robot if I were you. This isn't just any robot. Rather, it's the latest in my E-100 series, E-106 Eta. And, unlike my previous E-100 robots, this one has had a certain... weakness removed. It's now quite unstoppable. You see Knuckles, one thing I've learned over the years is that if you wish to succeed in this world, you have to learn to take control of situations, and this is what I'm doing here. After all, this idea worked once before, why wouldn't it work again?"

Knuckles was dimly aware of every muscle in his body clenching, but most of his focus was on Eggman's voice, as it continued to taunt him. "Of course, it was only a matter of time before a plan like this worked on that blasted hedgehog. He'd always displayed that weakness, that desire to always be the hero. He would always fall so easily into a trap when I used something he cared about as bait." Knuckles gritted his teeth. "He was so easily tricked. I suppose that's why you became friends, eh, Knuckles?"

For a moment, Knuckles felt like his feet had left the ground, but the feeling was gone in an instant, leaving him with his feet firmly on the ground, glowering at Eta, his body tense, and looking as if he was about to explode with rage. But something in his mind was holding him back. Memories of a time now long gone flashed before his eyes: memories of when Sonic was alive, and before the Eggman Empire had been established. Even then, when things were going fine, Knuckles had been quick to lose his temper. It had often brought him into conflict with Sonic, and yet it wasn't any of their physical battles that was most prominent in his memory now. No, it was of a time not quite so long gone as those battles...


Knuckles felt his insides lurch as the shuttle rebounded off the meteor. He clearly wasn't the only one who felt this way. Amy, who was sitting in the seat next to him, looked ready to throw up. Sonic showed no sign of even having noticed the crash; he simply wore the same cocky expression he always had. In the pilot's seat, Tails struggled to bring the spinning spaceship under control. As he fiddled with controls, the sirens that had been going off all around them gradually died down.

Knuckles, Tails and Amy all breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief. "Is everyone okay?" Tails asked. "We should be landing soon."

Knuckles nodded and leant his head back. Not realising in time that the headrest had fallen off in the crash, his neck bent right around, leaving Knuckles staring towards the back of the cockpit, through the clear door into the cargo bay. And then his jaw dropped. "Oh no, the hatch door blew open!" he shouted. Even now, the shards of the Master Emerald that he had spent so long collecting were flying out into space.

"Don't sweat it, Knuckles," Sonic said, closing his eyes as if ready to take a nap. "The only things in the cargo bay are those Master Emerald shards."

"What do you mean don't sweat it!" Knuckles shouted so loudly that he thought his vocal chords would burst. But he wouldn't have cared if they had done. How could Sonic just forget how much the Master Emerald meant to Knuckles? Had he already forgotten that it alone held the power of the Chaos Emeralds in check? But Sonic simply stared blankly at him. Knuckles had had enough.

Without thinking, Knuckles tore off his seat belt and stomped towards the pilot's seat. Glowering, he grabbed Tails by the fur on his chest and held his quivering form up to his eyes. "Let me off here," he growled. As Tails shook his head, he opened and closed his mouth several times, but no sound came out. Knuckles let go of Tails, and faced the control panel. His hands started pressing buttons at random, in an attempt to open the door to the shuttle. Nothing seemed to be working.

Knuckles could just make out the voice of Sonic behind him say, "What do you think you're doing? We're going to crash this thing if you keep that up!" But Knuckles ignored him. He needed to get off now. But none of the buttons seemed to be opening the door. Then Knuckles noticed a lever on the controls panel. Perhaps that would do the job. As Knuckles' right hand grasped the lever and prepared to pull it down, he heard Sonic cry out, "Don't touch that lever!" But it was too late.

With a loud boom, the rocket accelerated, throwing Knuckles back. Sonic, Tails and Amy were all screaming now. But rather than grab the seat and hold on for dear life, Knuckles let himself be hurtled towards the cargo bay door, moving his fist back as he did so. Then, he threw that fist forward, right towards the door. The powerful punch blew the door off, and Knuckles carried through the resulting hole.

Not looking back, Knuckles flew towards the asteroid field where the Master Emerald shards appeared to have been going, leaving the others to their fate.


Knuckles frowned as he brought himself back to reality. He knew that he was at least partly responsible for Sonic's death. If he had only been willing to delay retrieving the Master Emerald, he might have been able to help Sonic, and the whole disaster that resulted may have been averted. Now, fate had played a cruel game with him, and he was left being forced once again to choose between the Master Emerald and someone's life. Part of him knew that the life of another would always be worth more than any inanimate object, especially considering that this other was in danger because of him. And yet, Knuckle knew that he couldn't just let Eggman take the Master Emerald. He had protected it his whole life: it was his duty to do so. He couldn't just forget that duty now. On the other hand, why had he come here if he wasn't willing to give up the Master Emerald to save Amy? And why now, when it came time to make a choice, did he find himself unable to go either way?

"Oh, Knuckles," said the voice of Eggman. "Have you forgotten our little negotiations?" Eta's gun was now pressed against Amy's head, as if to drive home the nature of the situation. Knuckles had to think of something fast. He needed to get himself, Amy and the Master Emerald out of here in one piece. The first obstacle would be to deal with that robot. He stared at it, taking in every detail, looking for a possible weak spot, but he could see none.

"Knuckles," Eggman's voice said. "I'm going to give you to the count of ten to hand over the Master Emerald. If you don't hand it over by then, then the girl will die." Knuckles flinched. He knew that he needed more time. "One, two, three..." Knuckles' eyes darted around the room, looking for anything that might help, but he saw nothing. "...four, five, six..." His eyes glanced back and forth between Amy and Eta. The image of his last encounter with Sonic flashed through his mind again. And then, a plan came into his mind. ", eight, nine..."

"Stop!" Knuckles yelled as loudly as he yelled on that day over a year ago. In a quieter voice, he added, "You win, Eggman. The Master Emerald is yours." He reached under his glove and pulled out the Master Emerald, which instantly grew to fill the palm of his hand. "Here, catch." As he said those words, he threw the Master Emerald in a high arc towards Eta. Its eyes followed the Master Emerald as it flew through the air.

Knuckles waited until Eta didn't appear to be looking at him, and then he charged. He was guessing that Eta was going to drop Amy to grab the Master Emerald, and Knuckles knew that if he could time this right, he would be able to get them both. But as Knuckles and the Master Emerald got closer to Eta, the robot instead raised its gun arm into the air. Knuckles stopped for a moment. Surely Eggman wouldn't try to destroy the Master Emerald? But then, as the Master Emerald began to fall, the gun on the end of Eta's arm seemed to split apart, and Knuckles could hear the gears grinding as parts in the robot's arm moved past each other. As the noises ceased, Knuckles realised that the gun had just transformed into a hand. Knuckles cursed under his breath. So much for the plan.

Shouting a battle cry, Knuckles charged. Seeing the new threat, Eta started transforming its right hand back into a gun, but it was too late. Knuckles threw a punch at the robot's right arm, causing it to snap back and bury itself in the wall. Without looking, Knuckles raised his right hand, and the Master Emerald landed in his palm. In a mere moment, the Master Emerald was once again shrunk and in its hiding place under Knuckles' glove. Eta was still trying to get its right arm out of the wall, but meeting with little success.

Seizing the moment, Knuckles leapt at the hand holding Amy. As he reached it, he grabbed the large hand in both of his hands, and pulled them apart. There was a loud snap as the robot's fingers were pulled off. Sparks were flying from the resulting stump, but Knuckles didn't care. He just dropped to the ground, catching Amy as he did so. An instant later, Knuckles heard a loud crash behind him. He didn't need to look to know what that meant.

Holding Amy under one arm, he ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. Moments later, he heard the loud rattling of machine-gun fire. Knuckles thought he heard Amy let out a yelp, but he ignored it. His eyes were now focused on his immediate destination: the corner of the arena. He winced as he heard some shots zoom past his head, missing him by mere inches. He sincerely hoped that none had hit Amy. He could still feel her breathing, so she was still alive at least.

As he reached the corner of the arena, he leapt at the right-hand barrier. As his foot made contact, he pushed off, back-flipping high into the air. As he and Amy fell towards the other barrier, he caught a glimpse of the spot where he had been moments earlier being riddled with bullets. As he fell behind the first row of seats, he heard the machine-gun fire cease. Knuckles dropped Amy quickly but gently. She looked like she'd seen a ghost. Knuckles wondered whether Sonic had ever done something like this. "Stay there!" Knuckles whispered sternly before leaping back onto the barrier.

At the other end of the arena, Eta opened fire once more. Knuckles leapt to his right, dodging the bullets with ease. He swayed slightly as he caught his balance further down the barrier. As the gunfire moved towards him again, Knuckles dived at the floor. He broke into a roll as he hit the ground, finishing in a kneeling position. He leapt to his feet in an instant, but much to his surprise, the gunfire had stopped.

Eta was just standing there, its laser sight fixed on Knuckles' chest. Knuckles knew that he should let Eta make the first move, but part of him was against that idea. He had to get out of here quickly, in case Eggman sent some E-1000s to back Eta up. Stalling was the last thing Knuckles wanted to do now. Knuckles placed his right foot forward, leaning into an offensive stance, his fists raised, ready to make whatever attack his instincts led him to make.

A loud boom resounded through the room, Knuckles leapt high into the air. The missile that Eta had shot missed him by a mile. Knuckles grinned, but even as he did so, the missile turned sharply to face him. It then rocketed towards him. Knuckles was in no position to glide away. As the missile came closer, Knuckles did the only thing he could think of: he held out his arms, keeping them between his chest and the missile. A split second later, the missile made contact, but Knuckles' hands caught the missile. Knuckles tensed his muscles instantly, holding his arms rigid as the missile flew towards the wall with him. Knuckles' back smashed into the wall, but still his arms held firm, stopping the missile in its track. But it was still pushing, and Knuckles knew that he couldn't hold out much longer. He slowly slid his left and down towards the missile's booster.

Then, with one final, Herculean effort, Knuckles spun the missile to face away from the wall. In an instant, it took off again. Knuckles screamed as the fire coming out of the missile scorched his chest. Calling on his last reserves of strength, he clambered onto the main body of the missile itself. By now, the missile was headed directly for Eta. The robot took aim an opened fire. Knuckles winced slightly, but to his surprise, the bullets were not aimed at him. Rather, they were hitting the missile. Without thinking, Knuckles let go of the missile, and it raced ahead of him. Moments later, it exploded in a giant fireball. The force of the explosion sent Knuckles hurtling towards the ground. He landed hard on his back, and resisted the urge to cry out in pain as shrapnel pierced his body.

Knuckles rose to his feet, shaking slightly as he did so. Smoke now filled the centre of the arena. As his mind started to get foggy, Knuckles knew that this would be the last chance he would get. He wouldn't make it out of here alive, but he was determined to go out in a blaze of glory by destroying Eta. Forgetting the pain flowing through his body, Knuckles charged into the smoke. As he got closer, he heard the sound of machine-gun fire. He tried to leap to one side, but his dulled reflexes resulted in it only being more like a side-step. That wouldn't be enough. A sharp pain filled his left leg, and Knuckles knew that he had been hit. His leg buckled, and Knuckles collapsed. This time, he didn't get up.

Knuckles slowly opened his eyes. His vision was filled with a blinding red light. Knuckles didn't need to be told why that was. "It's over Knuckles," he heard Eggman's voice say. That had confirmed his suspicions.

"Go to hell, Eggman," Knuckles growled, his voice now a hoarse whisper.

"Well then, I'll see you there, Knuckles. But not for a long, long time. And unlike you, I'll die knowing that I won. I've defeated you all. Sonic, Tails, and now you."

Even as his vision started to fade, Knuckles grinned. "You haven't defeated Tails. He'll be back... and he'll crush you." His eyes closed.

Eggman was silent for a moment, before he said, "Farewell, Knuckles."

But before any more could be said or done, there was a loud shattering noise from above, followed by an even louder thud. Knuckles barely noticed as some shards of glass pierced his quills, for his body was even now going numb.

Knuckles forced himself to open his eyes, to clear his vision. He could just make out two dark silhouettes amidst the lesser darkness that was clouding his vision. One he recognised as Eta. But the other shape surprised him more. Even with his fading vision, there was no doubt that that shape could only be one thing - the Cyclone. But why had Tails come here?

Knuckles had no time to answer that question, as the Cyclone opened fire on Eta. Knuckles couldn't tell if the shots were having any effect. But as Eta raised its gun arm to return fire, it was blown off in an instant. It then tried to use its other arm to take a swipe at the Cyclone, but that arm was soon blown off as well. A few seconds later, its head was blown off, and the remains of Eta collapsed.

Knuckles closed his eyes once more. He was now satisfied. Tails had pulled through, and now Eggman wouldn't take away either Amy or the Master Emerald. Now he could die in peace.

But it wasn't long before the silence was broken by a soft voice saying, "Come on, Knuckles, we're going." Knuckles recognised the voice as Tails'. He felt an arm on either side lift him up onto his feet. He winced slightly as pain returned to his wounded left leg. Supported by those unseen arms, Knuckles slowly limped forwards, not quite sure where he was going, but certain that those arms would guide him along the safest route.

Time had now slowed to a crawl, but eventually Knuckles felt the unseen arms hold him back for a moment. He then felt himself being lifted slowly, and as he was dropped, he felt softness beneath and behind him. He heard a click near him, followed by two more, slightly more distant clicks. Then he heard the familiar roar of an engine, and even before he felt the wind upon his face, he knew what was going on: he was going home.

But part of him knew that, even though he would return to Angel Island soon, he wouldn't live to see its beautiful sights again. The tall mountains, the lush grass, the flowing rivers, the shrine of the Master Emerald: all these things would never be looked upon by him again. And, even as these images flashed across his mind, blackness claimed him...


A strange sound brought Knuckles back to consciousness. It was a sound that he had not heard in a long time: the sound of laughter. He prepared to make the struggle to open his eyes, but found the task effortless. He found himself staring at a blue, cloudless sky. He could have stared at that perfect sky for hours, but part of him had to know what was going on.

The laughter came again, but it seemed closer this time. Then, as if the joy of whoever or whatever was laughing was contagious, Knuckles realised that he wasn't in pain anymore: at least, not physically. Casting his eyes over his body, Knuckles found that it had somehow completely healed. There weren't even any scars. As Knuckles rose to his feet, he didn't find the slightest protest from his once-wounded leg.

Then, as Knuckles looked out at the landscape he had suddenly found himself in, he gasped. He was in a place that, nearly two years ago, he thought he'd never see again, and yet it was the place he'd called home his entire life. He was on Angel Island, or rather, the place that would one day become Angel Island. For now, it was just the shrine of the Master Emerald.

Knuckles stood in awe at the wondrous sight before him. He had always felt strongly attached to the shrine of the Master Emerald on Angel Island, but that feeling was nothing compared to this. That shrine he had spent most of his life near was, he was sad to admit, ruined. Rain and wind from years beyond count, not to mention an attack by his people in the past, had taken its toll on the structure. That was not so with the shrine that now stood before him. It was complete, practically glowing, with a domed roof to shelter the Master Emerald that Knuckles could see even from here. There were seven stone pillars spread evenly around the shrine, several of which were missing on Knuckles' version. Atop each pillar was a Chaos Emerald. Knuckles knew that this was the way things should have been.

Knuckles thoughts were interrupted by resumed laughter from behind him, but this time, he heard a familiar voice amongst the others. Even before he turned around, he knew what he would see, but it was something a part of him wanted to see, so he still found himself turning. Knuckles' guess was right, for now standing before him was Tikal, who was surrounded by half a dozen chao. Tikal was exactly as Knuckles had remembered her: young, but with a maturity beyond her years that was always clearly shown. Her orange fur seemed a bit brighter than usual under the glowing sun. Her simple, traditional dress seemed almost unnaturally white, but Knuckles didn't care. He just couldn't believe that he was seeing her again.

Then, an unfortunate realisation entered Knuckles' mind. "I'm dead, aren't I?" he said, frowning. Indeed, it seemed to be the only logical explanation for how he could be here, in a place that no longer existed, with a girl who was no longer in the world of the living, when his prior memories had been of himself at the brink of death.

Tikal looked up from the chao surrounding her, but her hand still wandered around the group, gently stroking each of their heads in turn. She smiled. "No," she replied in her gentle, almost serene voice, "just sleeping."

Knuckles held out his arms in exasperation, as if in hope that the answer to the questions plaguing his mind would simply drop into his arms. "But then why am I here? I mean..." Knuckles trailed off, knowing that what he was about to say would probably make the situation awkward, "'re dead, aren't you? And you left my world after the incident with Chaos was resolved. So how can I be here right now if I'm not dead?"

Tikal was no longer looking at Knuckles. Instead she was looking down at the chao she was currently petting. "What you just said is true. I am dead, and where we are now isn't a part of your world. Nor, before you ask, is it the past of your world. Rather, this is the place every being in the universe goes when they die. For everyone, it is different. It takes the form of nothing more and nothing less than their greatest desires."

Knuckles crossed his arms. "Then why isn't your father here? I thought he wanted the Chaos Emeralds and the Master Emerald, and where else would he find them but here?"

Tikal closed her eyes and was silent. A lone tear rolled down her face. "True, my father wanted the emeralds, but that was only half of what he wanted. He also wanted to see this shrine destroyed, to be razed to the ground, and for all the chao there to be slaughtered, and I fear that that's what he has gotten. For this world shows the greatest desire of even the worst beings, but for them it shows the utter emptiness of such desires." Tikal was silent once more.

Knuckles silently cursed himself for bringing up such a painful topic of discussion. In an effort to steer the conversation in a different direction, he said, "That still doesn't explain why I'm here."

Tikal laughed quietly to herself. "Knuckles, you have no understanding of subtlety. You need to have everything spelled out for you. Even when I showed you those visions years ago, I specifically picked obvious ones to make sure you'd understand them. I suppose that's just one of the things that defines who you are." While it hadn't been Knuckles' plan to make Tikal laugh, he was glad she had at least cheered up a bit. "Very well then," Tikal continued, "I'll explain it to you in terms you'll understand. After you and your friends escaped Eggman's clutches, you were near death. What's more, you had accepted that you were going to die then and there. The state of being alive is as much psychological as it is physical. In short, your body is still alive. However, your spirit, which had accepted that you were going to die, was sent to this world. I don't think I need to tell you why you ended up here with me and Chaos."

"Chaos is here?" Knuckles replied.

"Oh yes. He's currently lying as the pool of water in the shrine." Tikal pointed towards the shrine of the Master Emerald, but Knuckles didn't bother to turn. Chaos still gave him the creeps, even though the God of Destruction wasn't really living up to his title any more. "He's heard our entire conversation."

"And do you have any idea what he thinks of all this?" Knuckles had a gut feeling that Chaos knew a lot of things that could prove very useful, about the Chaos Emeralds, about the Master Emerald, about this place, and about how it might be possible to defeat Eggman.

"I'm sure he knows many things that I don't, Knuckles, but I doubt that he would share them with you. I think part of him still despises our people, and I believe that I alone am exempt from that feeling." Knuckles turned towards the Master Emerald shrine. He could tell that Chaos was watching him, probing into his thoughts. Knuckles wished that he could reverse the process. "But what we both know, Knuckles," said Tikal, "is that you've got to go home. Your friends need you, especially now that Sonic has gone, as does this world." Tikal hesitated before speaking again. "Knuckles, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but you still have a key role to play in this war. But if you are to defeat Eggman, you'll need to let go of past hatreds, of past rivalries... and of past loves." Knuckles flinched. He had a bad feeling where this was going. "I knew how you felt the time I first appeared to you. It's only natural. I'm the only other echidna you've ever truly known. But ask yourself, is it really worth longing for a love that won't be able to truly work until you're dead? You must let go, Knuckles..."

Even as Tikal finished uttering those words, the world around Knuckles began to vanish. Even as he stood there, looking at the shrine of the Master Emerald, it faded into nothingness. Knuckles saw the form of Chaos standing there, its penetrating gaze ever upon him. Knuckles forced himself to turn away from it, to turn back towards Tikal, who was now floating in the white nothingness, still surrounded by the chao. She was smiling at him. Then she, too, started to fade away. Knuckles tried to run to her, to stop her, but his feet now seemed to be rooted in place. He reached out to her, but his hand came up nearly a foot short. Tikal, who was still smiling, raised one hand slowly, and waved. Then, as the last traces of her vanished, she uttered, "Farewell, Knuckles. Remember, let go..."


The next thing Knuckles was aware of was pain. Not a sharp pain, but rather a dull ache that permeated through his entire body. Something soft was beneath his body, but it did little to ease the pain. Knuckles slowly opened his eyes. His vision was blurry at first, but even before it came into focus, he could tell where he was: the bed in the hut on Angel Island that Tails stayed in. Knuckles had never had any use for it before, as he preferred to sleep outside at the shrine of the Master Emerald, but he had to admit, he was grateful for it now.

Thoughts of the Master Emerald snapped his mind back into focus. Was the Master Emerald safe? Reaching underneath his glove, he slowly pulled out the gem, and it expanded to fill his palm. Knuckles smiled. For now, at least, the Master Emerald was safe.

Only then did Knuckles take a moment to look over his body. It looked like a mess. Bandages covered the various wounds he'd taken in his battle with Eta, including a large, wet one on his chest over the burns he'd received, and a blood stained one wrapped around his left thigh, where the bullet must have entered. He wondered if whoever had done that bandage had taken the bullet out. Knuckles shook his head, knowing that it didn't pay to think about such things. Some of those wounds, whether they were the ones to his body or the ones to his pride, would never heal.

Knuckle sat up, ignoring the pain it caused to do so. Injuries or no injuries, he still had a job to do. Knuckles slowly edged himself towards the edge of the bed, letting his legs hang off the side. He tried to stand up, but a sharp pain in his left thigh caused him to fall back down. As much as he hated to admit it, he'd need a crutch. Knuckles looked around the hut, but he couldn't find anything suitable. He'd have to improvise. Knuckles tore a plank of wood from the edge of the bed. A quick test showed it to be bit too long for his liking, but it would do. Knuckles held the crutch under his left arm, and slowly rose to his feet, being careful not to put any weight on his left leg. He limped towards the door, stumbling slightly at first, but soon steadying himself.

As he opened the door, Knuckles stepped out into the cool, crisp air. A glance up at the sky revealed that it was still night-time, but Knuckles was sure it must be nearly dawn. He couldn't help but wonder where Tails was at this time, but he paid it no mind. Tails could take care of himself. He also wondered where Amy was, but he wasn't so sure that she could take care of herself.

Knuckles shook his head. He had to focus on the true reason he was out here. There would be time for other thoughts later. Luckily the Master Emerald shrine was right in front of him. Back when he and Tails had first set up their headquarters here, they had thought it would be advantageous if they stayed near each other, at least when they weren't out on any missions.

As Knuckles hobbled towards the shrine, he couldn't help but think about the vision he'd just had. He knew it couldn't have been a dream. It had been too real, and he had experienced enough visions from his earlier experiences with Tikal to know what one was like. Of course, the location of the vision baffled him, but he had given up trying to think about spiritual matters like the afterlife a long time ago.

It was what had happened in the vision that concerned Knuckles more than its location. Tikal was gone now, and Knuckles knew that he would never see her again. Even when she had left with Chaos before, Knuckles hadn't been so certain of the eternity of it all as he was now. He would never see her again, at least not while he was still alive. In the past year, and even now, death didn't seem like such a bad thing. The times of relative peace, before the founding of the Eggman Empire, seemed like a long-lost utopia. What point was there in going on, in the face of such a hopeless situation?

Knuckles banished those thoughts from his mind. He knew that his purpose couldn't be solely to protect the Master Emerald. Tikal had told him that he had a key role to play. But what could it be?

Knuckles stopped. He had reached the top of the steps of the shrine. He had reached the resting place of the Master Emerald. Knuckles reached under his glove and pulled out the Master Emerald. As it expanded in his hand, it began to glow. It knew that it had come home, and so too, did Knuckles now know that he had come home.

As the Master Emerald continued to expand, Knuckles had to hold it with two hands, which forced him to drop his crutch. The Master Emerald was a heavy burden, in more ways than one. As quickly as it had begun, the Master Emerald's expansion stopped. Sweating slightly, Knuckles placed the Master Emerald in the centre of the raised platform.

Immediately, Knuckles heard a loud rumble. He knew what it meant: Angel Island was once again rising into the air. It wasn't long before the rumbling stopped, and Angel Island's rising with it. Angel Island never floated very high in recent times, as if the Master Emerald knew that letting the island go any higher would put itself in great danger. Indeed, Angel Island rarely reached more than a few metres above sea level nowadays. But somehow, even that little height was soothing to Knuckles. It was one good thing that remained, even in the dark times in which he lived.

Just as Knuckles was considering what he should do next, he heard a voice behind him say, "Knuckles?" Knuckles picked up his crutch and turned around, wincing slightly at the returning pain in his leg. Amy was standing at the top of the steps, staring at him, a worried look upon her face. She appeared to have cleaned herself since their escape. "Knuckles," she said, "you shouldn't be up yet. You need to rest."

Knuckles clenched his fists even tighter than usual, and gritted his teeth. Amy thought he was weak. One defeat, and everyone started treating him like a baby. Clearly, she didn't remember that he had helped save her life. "This was something I had to do," he whispered, resisting the urge to yell at her.

"But you've barely had a day's rest. You should at least have waited until Tails or I got in, so we could have helped you."

"What, you don't think I can take care of myself?" Knuckles shouted. "I've gotten by just fine by myself my whole life, so I don't need you, or Tails or anyone else mothering me!"

Amy looked like she was about to cry. "I'm not mothering you, Knuckles, I just don't want to see you get hurt. You saved my life, and I don't think I could have repaid by just bandaging those injuries."

Knuckles did a double-take. "You did this?" he asked, pointing at the bandage on his thigh.

Amy nodded. "That's right. I'd taken a first-aid course a couple of years ago. You know, back before... all that happened." There was no need to be more specific. They both knew what she was talking about.

For a moment that seemed to stretch to infinity, all that could be heard was the gentle whistle of the wind. It was only in that moment that Knuckles realised how harsh he'd been on Amy. It was barely a year since she had lost Sonic, whom she cared for more than anyone else. There was no way she could have recovered from that loss, especially when it was considered that she'd been held prisoner for most of that time. Who knew what suffering she had undergone in that time? Part of Knuckles wanted to know, but he knew it was her business, and only her business.

Knuckles broke the silence. "In that case then, maybe I'd better follow the advice of the expert." With those words, Knuckles limped past Amy, and started walking down the steps of the shrine, back towards Tails' hut. "Wake me up if you see anything suspicious."

"Knuckles, wait!" Amy shouted.

Knuckles stopped, but didn't turn back to face Amy. He had a bad feeling about what she was going to say. "What?"

There was silence for a moment. "Why did you come to rescue me?" Amy asked. "I mean, you risked yourself and the Master Emerald, and I know how much that gem means to you."

Knuckles silently cursed to himself. His suspicions had been right. He had been wondering the same thing until recently, but while he was talking with Amy, he'd realised that the answer had been staring him in the face the whole time. Knuckles took a deep breath, and then said, "Because I didn't want Sonic's sacrifice to be in vain."

With those words, Knuckles walked down the steps, towards the rising sun, leaving a crying Amy in his wake.
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