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

In the Shadow of the Night

by nintendofreakgcn 1 review

Knuckles go searching for answers, and an old foe hunts him down.

Category: Sonic the Hedgehog - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Amy Rose, Knuckles, Miles "Tails" Prower, Shadow - Warnings: [!!] [?] [V] - Published: 2006-01-16 - Updated: 2006-01-16 - 14649 words

This fanfic is now dedicated to the old English voice actors for the Sonic the Hedgehog games. As you probably know, they have been replaced by the voice actors from the 4kids dub of Sonic X. Frankly, the new voice actors aren't nearly as good as the old ones (Michael Pollock is great voice actor for Eggman though, and Deem Bristow needed to be replaced anyway). Ryan Drummond (Sonic), Deem Bristow (Eggman, RIP), David Humphrey (Shadow) and all the rest, I think I speak for most of the fans when I say that we miss you all, and wish that you hadn't been replaced. I doubt you will be equaled in my lifetime.

Chapter 2: In the Shadow of the Night

The rain poured down all around Knuckles, but he didn't care. He was standing atop the shrine of the Master Emerald, just like he had done nearly every night for as long as he could remember. But this time was different from all of those other times. On all of those long, cold nights, he had been facing away from the Master Emerald, keeping an eye out for any danger that could possibly come. This time, he was facing towards the Master Emerald.

It had been two weeks since Knuckles' battle with Eta. His wounds had just healed enough for him to able to walk. Fortunately, Amy had removed the bullet from his left thigh on that first night. If she hadn't, she thought it highly possible that Knuckles may never have been able to walk again. The burn across his chest had healed, and his trademark red fur was slowly re-growing. True, he still bore the scars of that battle, but the pain, or at least the physical pain, was gone.

This had been the first night since he'd returned to Angel Island that Amy and Tails had allowed him out alone. He wasn't going to waste his chance. He hadn't come out here to guard the Maser Emerald. He had come here for a more personal reason.

"I know there's more to you than meets the eye," Knuckles said, staring intently at the Master Emerald. Any onlooker would have thought he was crazy, talking to an inanimate object, but Knuckles knew exactly what he was doing. "All my life, I've felt some sort of strange aura emanating from you. I don't know why, but I'm sure that, even now, you can understand what I'm saying. Therefore, I'm going to ask one request of you, in exchange for the years of protection I have given you."

The Master Emerald remained as still as always, but Knuckles continued. "As you undoubtedly know, Tikal appeared to me two weeks ago. She said that there was some role that I had to play in this war against Eggman, something that I could do to bring this all to an end. But she wouldn't tell me what that something was. All I ask is that you tell me what it is I have to do."

All that could be heard was the pouring rain. The Master Emerald showed no sign of having noticed Knuckles at all. "You have to tell me," Knuckles said. "How am I supposed to do what it is I have to do if I don't even know what that is?"

The Master Emerald remained silent and motionless. Knuckles' patience was at its end. "I protect you for my entire life, and this is how you treat me?" he shouted, not caring if Tails or Amy heard. Knuckles dropped to his knees and raised his arms, as if he were begging for mercy. "Just give me a sign! Something! Anything!"

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, the Master Emerald began to glow, and its bright light nearly blinded Knuckles. In spite of the bright light and the intensity of the situation, Knuckles was starting to feel incredibly weary. He knew he had to stay awake, to find out the Master Emerald was trying to tell him. A voice in the back of Knuckles' mind told him that perhaps the Master Emerald wasn't trying to tell him something. Perhaps it was trying to avoid telling him something. As these thoughts swirled through the melee in his mind, Knuckles' eyes closed...


Knuckles was awoken by the sound of someone shouting, "Knuckles, wake up!" As Knuckles slowly opened his eyes, he found Tails leaning over him. He was laying on his back, the cool stone surface of the shrine of the Master Emerald his only bed. Knuckles couldn't help but wonder what was so important that he had to be woken up. He'd been sleeping next to the Master Emerald every night since Tails moved here, with the exception of his recent two-week recovery period.

As Knuckles sat up, he realised it was dawn. "What is it, Tails?" Knuckles asked with a yawn.

"Just take a look over the edge and see," Tails replied, pointing to the cliff that comprised the edge of Angel Island.

Knuckles stood up and stretched. Slowly, he walked towards the cliff, his eyes half-shut. He really didn't know why he was doing this. He knew exactly what he'd see: the massive, seemingly endless body of water commonly known as the ocean.

As he reached the cliff, Knuckles looked down over the edge, opening his eyes fully as he did so. He leapt up slightly in shock as he did so. Less then fifty metres below him was a beach.

Knuckles took a moment to collect his thoughts. How exactly was this happening? Angel Island hadn't gone anywhere near land in the year since Eggman's conquest. Why would it do so now? Taking a closer look over the edge, it actually appeared that Angel Island had landed. That was truly strange. There were only two occasions when this had happened while the Master Emerald was still on Angel Island. During the first, around the time of his first encounter with Sonic, the Master Emerald had been in the Hidden Palace to keep it safe. The second time, there had been six Chaos Emeralds on the island, as well as the Master Emerald. Neither of those was the case now. No, this was truly a unique occurrence.

"When did this happen?" Knuckles asked Tails.

"Just a few minutes ago," Tails replied. "The noise it made woke me and Amy up. I'm surprised it didn't wake you up."

"I was... busy last night."

"Yeah, we heard you shouting something. Are you sure you're alright, Knuckles?" Tails looked vaguely concerned.

"I'm fine," Knuckles growled. In an attempt to dodge the issue, Knuckles looked towards the large landmass had landed by. The beach continued for a small distance, before being taken over by a lush rainforest. Knuckles found it very odd that Eggman's presence hadn't extended here yet. "Where do you think we are, Tails?"

"At a guess, I'd say we're somewhere along the western edge of South America, but I'd have to check on my G.P.S. to be sure."

"I thought South America was destroyed by the Eclipse Cannon."

"No, that was North America."

"Ah." Knuckles was silent for a while after that, and continued to stare out at the large landmass. Knuckles couldn't quite put his finger on it, but somehow the area seemed strangely familiar to him. "Want to check it out?"

"Well, first I'd better do a quick scan of the area to make sure that none of Eggman's forces are there. If there aren't any though, then I don't see the harm in exploring a bit."

"How long would a scan take?"

Tails shrugged. "Somewhere between ten and twenty minutes, depending on how much of a mess I left my stuff in last night."

Once, Knuckles would have laughed at that, but not anymore. It had been a long time since laughter had passed his lips. With a nod, Knuckles left Tails to do his work, while he went off in search of some breakfast.


About half an hour later, Knuckles walked into Tails' workshop, chewing on a dead rabbit. He didn't normally eat much meat, but a fortnight of the miscellaneous broth Amy had given him had made him long for something a little more substantial.

Tails was sitting at his computer, with Amy standing behind him, looking intently at the screen. She looked towards Knuckles as he closed the door behind him, and a look of revulsion swept across her face.

"Eww, Knuckles," she said. "Don't you take the fur off those things before you eat them?"

"No," Knuckles said as he took another bite. After swallowing the mouthful, he added, "Should I?"

Tails turned his head towards Amy, before whispering, "This is why I cook my own food." Knuckles could still clearly hear what Tails said, but he got a feeling that that was the idea.

"Anyway," Knuckles said in an attempt to change the subject, "have you completed that scan yet, Tails?"

Tails nodded. "Yep, and the results are pretty interesting." He turned back towards the screen. "Sensors show no sign of any significant technology, but that's not the interesting part. The interesting is that I'm picking up some stonework, most likely buildings. It's all on ground level and seems to be in fairly good condition, though, so it can't be that long since it was in use."

Knuckles frowned. This was getting stranger by the minute. How could something like this have escaped Eggman's knowledge? "Are you picking up any advanced life forms?"

Tails shook his head. "No, but it's impossible to be absolutely sure from this distance, at least with my equipment. I could go out in the Tornado 3 and take a closer look, if you want."

"Don't do that. On the offhand chance that it's a trap, they'll probably be expecting you to come in the Tornado. No, we'll go in on foot."

"Should we go now?"

"No time like the present." Knuckles looked at Amy. "Amy do you know how to work the communications..." he struggled to find the right word, "...thing here?"

Amy nodded and said, "Tails showed me yesterday. It seems simple enough."

"Good, you stay here and take control of the communications side of things. Tails, you're coming with me."

"Why don't I get to go?"

Knuckles sighed. He had forgotten how independent Amy was sometimes, or maybe he'd hoped that the events of the past year had caused it to fade, just like every other remotely good thing in the world. "Three reasons, Amy. First, you're too young."

"But I'm older than Tails!"

Knuckles resisted the urge to let his jaw drop. Truth be told, he didn't have even a vague figure for anyone's age, even his own, but he was surprised by this revelation. To Knuckles, Tails had always seemed more mature than Amy, and he had simply assumed that that meant that Tails was older. "I'll have to take your word on that. Regardless, Tails has proven himself more than capable time and time again." Meanwhile, Tails was slowly stepping away into a corner, clearly not wanting to get involved in this argument. Ignoring him, Knuckles continued on. "He's shown an incredible knack for surviving through situations where anyone else would surely perish, and as you would know, he saved both our hides just a week ago. In fact, by now, I think he's survived more encounters than your hero did."

Knuckles let those words hang for a moment. Amy opened and closed her mouth a few times, but no sound came out. A lone tear slid down her cheek. Knuckles knew that what he was doing was cruel, but it was not unnecessarily so. You had to be tough and disciplined to survive nowadays, and Knuckles was taking the first step in making Amy both of those. It was a case of having to be cruel to be kind.

A brief moment later, Knuckle continued talking. "Ever since the events of last year, Tails has followed me through thick and thin, doing things that no one should be forced to do. All the same, though, I have been forced to leave Tails here to take care of the communications side of things on several occasions, including last week's mission, and I don't think he should have to do that any more. That brings us to the second reason why you won't be going on this mission: because we need someone to take care of communications."

"But why can't you take care of that? I mean, you shouldn't be going out anyway, what with your injuries and all."

Knuckles scowled. It took all of his willpower to resist the urge to yell, but somehow he did. Taking a deep breath, he walked towards Amy, his pounding footsteps echoing through the cabin. In a few moments, Knuckles was standing only a few inches away from Amy. Although he wasn't much taller than Amy, he was sure that his suppressed rage made him look very intimidating.

"Conveniently," he said slowly, "that brings us to the third reason why you cannot go, which is because I say so. While you're on my island, you'll follow my orders. Now, you could leave right now, since we're on land, but I wouldn't recommend it. I would hazard a guess that even now, Eggman is seeking to have us all killed in the most painful way possible, for we are all that remains of a bygone era. Once he kills us - and it's only a matter of time before he does - there will be no one left to stand in his way."

Many more tears were flowing out of Amy's eyes now, and a few sobs could be heard as well. "Now, Amy Rose," Knuckles said, being sure to use her full name, "do you understand why you cannot go on this mission?" Amy nodded slowly and without conviction. For now, at least, Knuckles had succeeded in giving her a dose of reality. He stepped away from her. "Good, then let me tell you what you'll have to do. Tails will give you brief updates on our progress over the communicator. These updates will be every hour, on the hour. If we miss an update, be especially on your guard. If we miss two updates in a row, then flee this place as fast as you possibly can, and head south, since there are less cities that way. Under no circumstances are you to follow us. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Amy whispered.

"Alright then, take your post." Amy slowly trudged towards the communications station, if you could call it that. In truth, it was just a desk with a few scanning devices and a communicator, but it served its purpose. As Amy walked away, Knuckles turned towards Tails, who was walking out of the corner, staring at Knuckles with a dumbstruck expression. "Tails, grab a communicator, some scanning equipment and a day's worth of emergency rations, and meet me outside." Knuckles turned away and walked outside, to be alone with his thoughts.


A few minutes later, Knuckles and Tails set off into the rainforest. They both carried a backpack filled with equipment and supplies, but they were quite light, as Tails' inventions were always quite small. Tails carried a miniature scanner with him in his right hand to ensure that they kept on the right course. Knuckles carried the Master Emerald with him, kept safely under his glove as it always was whenever he left Angel Island. He frowned as he realised that that was becoming an increasingly common occurrence.

They had been walking in silence for about half an hour when Tails broke the silence. "Knuckles?" he asked.

"Yeah, what is it, Tails?" Knuckles replied, expecting important information.

"Don't you think you were a little bit hard on Amy? I mean, she's been through some really tough times, you know."

Knuckles was silent for a moment. Truthfully, he had been suspecting and dreading that Tails would bring up this topic of conversation, but that didn't mean that he was ready for it. He'd have vastly preferred it if Tails had just let the issue slide. "We've all been through some tough times, Tails," Knuckles finally said. "We're still going through them, in fact. We'll probably be stuck in these tough times for the rest of our lives. That's why we can't afford to let our guard down. Amy's been isolated from the world for over a year. She doesn't know how dangerous a place it is now. Someone has to teach her, or she won't survive."

Tails frowned. He still seemed unconvinced. "I know that, but couldn't you have broken it to her more gently? Or let me do it, even."

"Tails, I gave you two weeks to do it, and although I'm not going to blame you for it, you failed. So I had to take things into my own hands. You may not like my methods, but they're the only ones I know. You of all people should understand that sometimes a guy has to do things his own way."

With those words, the conversation stopped, and Knuckles and Tails continued their march through the jungle. Time passed slowly, as did their trek. They contacted Amy every hour, on the hour, as promised. Knuckles let Tails handle that, as he doubted that Amy really wanted to talk to him right now.

Around noon, when they were about to stop for a quick break, Tails stopped. "Sorry to bother you, Knuckles, but my scanning device has gone haywire."

"What?" Knuckles replied. "How the hell did that happen?"

"I don't know, but something is interfering with it. It must be some really powerful energy source."

An idea popped into Knuckles' head. "I wonder..." he whispered to himself as he pulled the Master Emerald out from under his glove. Sure enough, it was glowing brightly. "That would explain it."

Tails nodded. "Yeah, it would. Do you have any idea why it would be glowing now, though?"

Knuckles knew all too well. "It's because we're close to something important."

"You mean important in the good sense or the bad sense?"

Knuckles shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine, Tails."

Tails rolled his eyes. Knuckles scowled, but Tails didn't appear to notice. "Anyway," Tails said, "before the scanning device broke down, it showed that we were pretty close to those buildings I spotted earlier. In fact, we'll probably be able to see them now, if we use some more old-fashioned technology." He took his backpack off, and rummaged around in it. He then pulled out two pairs of binoculars. Tails threw one to Knuckles, and looked through the other one himself.

Knuckles looked through the binoculars, but found that, for some reason, everything appeared smaller through them. That was odd, as Knuckles thought that the whole point of binoculars was to make things look bigger. "Hey Tails, I think these things are broken. Everything appears smaller for some reason."

"You're looking through the wrong end, Knuckles," Tails replied without even looking at Knuckles.

"Ah." Knuckles turned the binoculars around and looked though them again. Sure enough, he now found that he could make out objects that were a considerable distance away. In fact, he could just make out a large group of stone buildings in a low valley not too far from his current position. "Do you see that, Tails?" Knuckles asked, pointing in the general direction of the buildings.

"I sure do, Knuckles. What do you think we should do?"

Knuckles took the binoculars away from his eyes. The time for scouting was over. "We're going in."

Tails took the binoculars away from his eyes, and looked at Knuckles incredulously. "Are you sure that's a good idea, Knuckles? Wouldn't it be better to wait until it's dark so we can sneak in?"

"Tails, if it's dark, that will just make it easier for someone to ambush us. Besides, if something bad is going to happen, we might as well get it over with, right?" Knuckles didn't wait for a response, but instead set off down into the valley, towards the city.

Knuckles heard Tails sigh as he followed, but he didn't pay it any mind. For some reason that he couldn't fathom, Knuckles felt like he needed to go down there. He needed to know what lay in wait for him. It was almost as if he felt that the answers to his questions lay down in that village. He had no idea why he thought that, but he just did.

It took about ten minutes for Knuckles and Tails to navigate their way through the dense undergrowth surrounding the city. By the time they reached the outskirts of the village, they had missed their last contact time with Amy, but both of them seemed to have forgotten entirely about her.

As Knuckles walked with Tails into the village, he began to immediately feel uneasy. The ancient buildings seemed strangely familiar. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but the whole village seemed to be mimicking something he had seen before.

Then, the answer hit him, and he stopped in his tracks. "Tails," he whispered, for he still wasn't sure if there were any foes in hiding around here, "do you know where I've seen these sorts of buildings before?"

"Mystic Ruins?" Tails replied. Clearly, the young fox must have visited that area before.

Knuckles nodded. "It's the exact same style, I'm sure. But why would that be the case?"

Tails didn't seem very fazed by that question. "Well, I know that many ancient civilisations had similarities in their building styles. Still, it's very odd to find buildings of this exact style so far south."

"Tails, it's more than that. These buildings look like they're almost brand new. At the very least, they look like they're still being inhabited."

"But Knuckles, there's no one around. Someone should have come out to see us by now."

"Yeah," Knuckles whispered to himself as his eyes scanned the area around him, looking for the slightest movement. "It's quiet. Too quiet."

"Yeah," Tails replied in a faintly nervous tone. "It's almost as if -" Tails voice cut out, and Knuckles heard a thud.

"Tails?" Knuckles said as he turned around. Tails lay face-down on the ground before him, clearly unconscious. Knuckles heard a faint rustle in the bushes near one of the buildings. He knew better than to walk into an obvious trap, though. "Come out and face me, you coward!" he shouted.

A split second later, Knuckles felt two pricks in the back of his neck. Acting on reflex, Knuckles pulled out the two darts that had been lodged in his neck. It was too late, though, for Knuckles was already starting to feel dizzy. There must have been some drug in those darts.

Knuckles' vision was starting to go blurry. He knew that he had to get himself and Tails out of the village, and fast. Knuckles staggered over towards Tails, but before he could reach him, he felt several more darts pierce his skin. Knuckles swayed on the spot. His vision was beginning to spin.

Knuckles was dimly aware of several dark figures approaching. As he collapsed, though, all of his vision turned to blackness.


Amy paced around the cabin. She knew that she had to stay calm. Knuckles and Tails had missed their last two updates, but there could be any number of possible explanations for that. Some of them were good, some were ordinary and most of them were bad. Still, it didn't pay to worry about them now. They knew how to take care of themselves.

What was more important now was what she was supposed to do. She knew that Knuckles had told her to flee if such a situation occurred, but part of her didn't want to go. Part of her didn't feel right abandoning Angel Island, and indeed abandoning Knuckles and Tails. She owed her life to them, and she knew that that was a debt that could never be truly repaid. Did that mean that she shouldn't even try?

Amy looked at the screen of the communications station. It showed that Knuckles and Tails were somewhere within the large cluster of buildings they had picked up on the scanner. It would only take Amy a few hours to get there if she hurried. Knuckles and Tails had been moving at a more leisurely pace, from what she had heard.

Amy couldn't help but wonder whether it would even be any use for her to go. Could she truly succeed where Tails and Knuckles had failed? Both of them were far stronger, both in body and mind, than she believed herself to be. Any foe that could take down both Knuckles and Tails was a force to be reckoned with.

Amy took a deep breath, as she pulled out something from underneath her right glove. It was a heart-shaped locket. Somehow, she had managed to keep it safe during that year she had spent as Eggman's prisoner. She flipped it open. Inside, there was a picture of Sonic. It wasn't a particularly special picture, as it had always been impossible to get him to stay still long enough to get a decent photo. Still, it was all Amy had left of him.

Amy knew what Sonic would do in this situation. Assuming that he hadn't been fighting alongside Knuckles and Tails in the first place, he would hasten boldly to their rescue without thinking twice. Of course, it was that same instinct that had led to his death. She silently cursed herself for her part in that.

Amy sighed. She knew that she couldn't think about what Sonic would do, because she wasn't Sonic. She would never be able to live up to his heroic deeds. She had to figure out what was right for her, what her path was to be in life. She couldn't help but reflect on Sonic's last words:

"And Amy, take care of yourself."

It was, of course, perfectly possible to interpret that as Sonic saying that Amy should stay out of trouble, so as to keep safe. Indeed, for a long time, that was how Amy had viewed it. But Knuckles' speech to her before she left had struck a chord with her. It was impossible to stay safe in this new world. All anyone could do was stay alive, and that required a degree of independence and courage that Amy simply didn't possess. That was something that Amy would have to develop if she was ever to truly take care of herself.

As Amy closed the locket and slipped it back under her glove, a lone tear slid down her cheek. "I'm sorry, Sonic," she whispered, as she stepped outside, going to meet her destiny.


Knuckles was awoken by the feeling of someone slapping his face. His whole body felt sore, but as he tried to stretch his limbs, he found that they were securely bound with rope. He could probably break the bonds if he used all his strength, but it would be best to figure out what was going on before he tried that.

Knuckles groaned as he opened his eyes. A large mass of black creatures was all that he could see with his blurred vision. He assumed that there were still traces of the drug that knocked him out in his body. Knuckles blinked a few times to clear his vision.

As the shapes before him became clear, Knuckles gasped. Standing before him was a group of creatures that he thought he would never see again: echidnas. He had never seen any other live echidnas in real life, but he obviously knew what they looked like. There was no mistaking it: these creatures were echidnas. Knuckles had no idea how any echidnas could still be remaining, as he thought that Chaos had killed them all. Still, that didn't really matter to Knuckles right now. All that mattered was that he was their prisoner. He knew it wouldn't be easy to escape, as they were all bigger, and thus probably stronger, than him. He was going to need a strategy.

Since the echidnas hadn't yet tried to talk to Knuckles, he took a moment to look around. He was in a large, empty space somewhere in the middle of the city. He assumed it functioned as a town square or something similar. Turning his head to the left, a rather difficult feat, he found that Tails was tied to a stake. Knuckles assumed that he was bound to a similar stake, but he couldn't be sure, as he couldn't turn his head that much. Tails looked at him with a look of fear, but didn't say anything.

"Let me speak to them," said a gruff voice from within the group. The group of echidnas parted in the middle, and one figure began walking towards Knuckles. It was clear that he held some position of power, for he was garbed quite differently from the other echidnas. Being males, they wore little or nothing, but this echidna wore a dark grey, full-length robe, with thick white fur on the edges. He was rather chubby, especially when compared to the muscular build of his followers. His fur was maroon, with faint white streaks in his dreadlocks, and white fur on his muzzle and eyebrows. He wore a ring on each of his fist-spikes, and each was encrusted with a different gem: a ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond respectively. In his right hand, he held a long wooden staff, which had a large diamond attached to the top.

Finally, the echidna stopped, within a few feet of Knuckles. He was about a head taller than Knuckles, but the latter was determined not to show any sign of fear or weakness. That would only give the mystery echidna a psychological advantage.

For a few moments, the echidna just stared at Knuckles, his eyes boring into Knuckles' mind. His expression was grim, but showed very little emotion. Then, the echidna spoke. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" he asked in the same gruff voice Knuckles had heard earlier.

Knuckles managed a faint grin. "Since you're the host, I think it would be polite if you began the introductions," he replied.

The other echidna scowled, and his grip on his staff tightened. "You watch your mouth," he growled. "If I were not so merciful, I might kill you for such a disrespectful comment. Still, since you are clearly ignorant, I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, at least on that matter. I am Muscowequan, ruler of this city of Nachide." Knuckles opened his mouth, but Muscowequan interrupted him. "Before you ask, Nachide is, of course, a city populated by echidnas. As you may know, most of our civilization was wiped out millennia ago by a beast of great power. We are the descendents of the survivors."

Knuckles resisted the urge to point out that Chaos deserved more respect than to be called a beast. It wouldn't get him anywhere in this situation. "So, would I be correct in assuming that you are a descendent of Pachacamac?"

Muscowequan didn't answer that question. Instead, he simply walked up to Knuckles. Muscowequan raised his left fist and slowly used his fist spikes to dig into Knuckles' right cheek. Knuckles winced slightly as the spikes punctured his skin. Muscowequan left his fist there for a moment, and then withdrew it in one quick motion, tearing a bit of skin from Knuckles' face in the process.

Knuckles could feel the blood trickling down his cheek. As if to make the point even clearer, Muscowequan raised his gloved, bloodstained fist before Knuckles' eyes. "I bear no relation to that foul, broken line of Pachacamac," he spat out. "His accursed line was broken when the beast attacked. It was about the only good thing that beast did. It was Pachacamac's weakness and ignorant folly that was responsible for the destruction of our empire. One of my ancestors was appointed to lead our people in that fiend's stead. My ancestors built this city, and we have ruled it ever since. Now, that's my introduction out of the way. So, will you tell us who you are and what you are doing here, or would you prefer me to introduce the several thousand echidnas who live in this city?"

Knuckles was shocked at that figure. He knew the city was big, but he hadn't for a moment thought it was that big. This situation was getting stranger by the minute. "No, just your name will do. We are simple travelers who were in the area. We spotted this city as we were traveling. We assumed it was uninhabited, so we thought we'd find ourselves some shelter for the night." Thankfully, Tails didn't voice any objections to that. Knuckles knew it was a lie, but he had to play it safe, as he still didn't know whether or not these echidnas were allied with Eggman. It was perfectly possible, and would explain why this city was still standing. It wouldn't, of course, explain why the Master Emerald had led Knuckles and Tails here, but Knuckles had never claimed to fully understand the methods of the Master Emerald.

Muscowequan raised an eyebrow. "You stopped to seek shelter in the middle of the day?"

Knuckles realised the folly of what he had said, but he kept up the act by nodding. "That's right. Our days of travel have been long and hard recently, and it's a rare experience for us to have a roof over our heads."

"I see," Muscowequan said, although he still seemed unconvinced. "Tell me, why is that you are traveling in such isolated areas as this?"

Knuckles would have shrugged, but the rope rendered him unable to do so. "No reason, really. We're just aimless wanderers. We travel around the place, taking life one day at a time. It's a bit purposeless sometimes, but what are you going to do?"

"Fascinating story, but one that is entirely implausible. Still, we'll get the truth out of you sooner or later, even if we have to beat it out of you." Knuckles flinched ever so slightly at that thought. Part of him dreaded the thought of those echidnas beating him for days on end. "What's more important to me now," Muscowequan added, "is learning your names. Don't lie to me on this account. There's no point whatsoever in doing so, as you are complete strangers to me."

Knuckles dwelled on that point for a moment. Muscowequan was right. If he and the other echidnas were working for Eggman, then they would already know who Knuckles and Tails were. After all, it was highly unlikely that there were any other duos consisting of an echidna and a two-tailed fox around. On the other hand, if Muscowequan and co. weren't working for Eggman, then Knuckles and Tails' respective names would mean nothing to them.

"Very well, Muscowequan," Knuckles finally said, "I'll tell you our names. I'm Knuckles, and my friend is Miles Prower, but he prefers to be called Tails."

"I'll decide what to call him, Knuckles," Muscowequan replied. Slowly, he walked over to Tails. The fox was little more than half Muscowequan's height, and Knuckles could just make out the fear in his eyes. "So, Miles," Muscowequan said, "what is a boy as young as you doing traveling with someone who is clearly not related to you and is considerably older than you? Don't even try answering for him, Knuckles, let him speak for himself."

Tails was silent for a moment, but eventually he spoke. "I'm an orphan. My parents died when I was very young. For a while, an older friend looked after me. About a year ago, that friend died, too. Since Knuckles was a friend of that friend, he took me in, and I've been travelling with him ever since." Knuckles was pleasantly surprised that Tails had been able to come up with such a good answer that, as far as Knuckles knew, was basically true.

Muscowequan gave no sign as to what he truly thought. He simply snapped his fingers, or as close a thing as could be done with those gloves, and said, "Guards, take them to the highest-security cell we have." Knuckles heard footsteps all around him, even though he couldn't see behind him. He felt the bonds around his arms and legs being loosened, and finally removed. Knuckles stumbled slightly at this sense of slight freedom. His arms and legs were numb from being held still for so long.

As Knuckles was surrounded by large, muscular echidnas, Muscowequan added, "Oh, I wouldn't try escaping if I were you. These guards are incredibly well-trained and will beat you to death if they're given half a reason to."

"Great," Knuckles groaned. According to his calculations, that was about a quarter of a reason, so he was still safe. Truthfully, he had no intention of escaping just yet. Knuckles could tell that these guards were stronger than him, and even if they weren't as agile, which Knuckles assumed to be the case, they still outnumbered him and Tails greatly. There was also the fact that Knuckles didn't care to admit, the fact that he hadn't done any training since his loss to Eta. Even if Tails and Amy were to have let him, he just couldn't quite bring himself to do so.

The echidnas formed a tight circle Knuckles, giving him little or no room to move. It also meant that he couldn't see Tails. That was going to complicate matters if they were taken to separate cells. Knuckles hoped that these echidnas had a low crime rate, and thus only the solitary prison.

The circle began to move, and the echidna behind Knuckles forced his fist into his back, forcing Knuckles along. Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of moving within such a tight circle, Knuckles' movement bore a closer resemblance to stumbling than walking. Regardless, the group slowly but surely moved through the city. They made several turns along the way, and Knuckles soon lost all track of where they were. That was really going to complicate matters.

Knuckles took a moment to look up at the sky. It was late afternoon. Soon, the sun would be setting. That, at least, was something to be grateful for, as Knuckles knew that that vastly improved the chances of him and Tails escaping. Still, Knuckles couldn't help but wonder what they were going to do about Amy. By now, she should have fled to the south, as per his orders. It was going to be difficult to find her, that much was certain.

Knuckles' thoughts were interrupted as the group stopped. Knuckles could just make out a building through the gaps between his guards. He heard a door opening, and the group began to force him inside. Knuckles assumed that this was the prison.

It was dark and rather dank inside. Knuckles had little time to think of this, though, as he was promptly led down some stairs. The stairs were surprisingly wide, which allowed the entire group to fit on them. They soon got down the stairs, and Knuckles was led a short distance more. The group parted at the front. Knuckles saw an open cell door in front of him.

"Get in," grunted one of the echidnas. Knuckles walked in, as there was still no point in fighting. The cell was even danker than the rest of the prison. Knuckles was sure he could smell some rotting sewage in the area. It was also very cramped, even more cramped than the cell he had had when he was being held prisoner by Eggman on the ARK. Knuckles was starting to feel faintly claustrophobic. He went and sat down on a hard wooden cot in the corner. About a minute later, Tails was shoved in, and the cell door was closed behind him. He fell over as he entered the cell. Knuckles got up off the cot and went over to help him up. As he was pulled to his feet, Tails said nothing, but his gratitude could be seen in his eyes.

One of the echidnas, who was perfectly visible between the bars of the cell, spoke. "My lord Muscowequan told me to tell you that you have until noon tomorrow to tell us the truth," he said. "At that point, we shall start using less pleasant methods to get the truth out of you." With those words, he and the other echidnas left, leaving Knuckles and Tails alone in the cell.

They walked over to the cot where Knuckles had been sitting and sat down once more. For a few long moments, neither of them said anything. Then, Knuckles noticed that Tails was shivering. It was certainly on the cool side of things in the cell, but Knuckles could take it. Clearly, Tails couldn't. "Do you know a way we can light a fire with what we have with us, Tails?"

Tails shook his head. "The only way I could think of doing that would be for you to snap this cot in two and rub the pieces together. You could probably make a fire that way. Of course, then we'd have to sit on the floor, which is probably far colder than what we're sitting on right now, so it's probably not worth it. Of course, if I had still had my equipment, I could make a fire easily, but they took all my stuff when they captured us." Tails sighed, and then sat bolt upright. He looked briefly at the stairs, presumably to check if there were any guards. Then, he whispered, "Knuckles, did they take the Master Emerald?"

Now it was Knuckles' turn to sit bolt upright. He hadn't even thought about the Master Emerald since he'd woken up. Clearly, the sight of other echidnas had made him lose his touch. Hurriedly, he reached under his glove. Fortunately, he felt the familiar sensation of the Master Emerald there. "No, I still have it," he said with a sigh of relief.

For a few minutes, there was silence once more. Then, Tails spoke up. "Do you have a plan for us to get out of here?" he asked.

"Well, that depends what you mean by a plan," Knuckles replied. "If you count bashing our way out of here in the middle of the night and running like hell as a plan, then yes, I do have a plan."

"Um, not that I'm doubting your incredible plan-making abilities or anything, Knuckles, but..." Tails trailed off.

Knuckles had a vague idea of what Tails was worried about. "Just say it, Tails."

"Well, surely there are going to be guards around the prison. How are we supposed to beat them? They look pretty tough."

Knuckles nodded noncommittally. "Yeah, I'm a bit worried about that myself. Without knowing how many guards there are or how they're arranged, I can't really form any concrete plan. Our best bet is to double team one, take him out quickly, and then run through the resulting gap. If that fails, we'll just have to play it by ear."

Tails said nothing, but it was clear to Knuckles that something was bothering him. Still, it wasn't his place to barge into the affairs of others. "Knuckles, why do you think they're holding us here?" Tails asked.

Knuckles sighed. He was wondering the same thing. "I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing they see us as some sort of threat."

"But why would they see you as a threat? You're an echidna, just like them!"

"You're half right, Tails. I am an echidna, but I'm just not like them. To them, I'm an outsider, just like you or anyone else. They've spent all their lives thinking that they were the sole survivors of Chaos' attack, and now they find another. They may have hoped that there were other survivors, but when one does come, they don't know what to think. They certainly can't trust such a survivor."

Tails nodded, and then said vaguely, "A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country."

"Did you make that up?"

Tails shook his head. "No, but it wasn't anyone you'd have ever heard of who said it."

"It's true, though." Knuckles scowled. "All too true."

Tails sighed. "Knuckles, something's bothering you, and it's not just that we're being held prisoner. I can see that. You want to tell me what it is?"

Knuckles knew that what was bothering him was really none of Tails' business. Still, it couldn't hurt to get it out in the open. "Tails, did Sonic ever tell you what the echidnas did all those years ago?"

Tails shrugged. "He said they attacked the shrine of the Master Emerald and killed the chao there. That infuriated Chaos, who then killed them."

Knuckles nodded. "He gave you the basics, but he failed to capture the magnitude of the crime," he growled. "It was bad enough that they slaughtered innocents who were no threat to them. It was bad enough that they attacked Tikal, the only echidna with a brain in her head. It was bad enough that they did it all out of their own selfish lust for power. But it's the consequences of that act that are truly unforgivable. Because of them, a power that should have and would have been kept safe was unleashed. Because of them, we had a situation where any tyrant could gain a power beyond imagination. Because of this, we have, in our short lives, witnessed people get killed by the million, seen friends die futile deaths, witnessed the rise of a totalitarian empire, and been stuck in a conflict with no end in sight. All this, simply because those echidnas wanted a little more power."

"Knuckles, surely you're not going to judge an entire race, your race, on the actions of a few lunatics."

"Tails, I don't know how Tikal portrayed the ancient echidnas to you. To me, though, she showed a society that wouldn't listen to her, a society that agreed with Pachacamac. That is a society I can't forgive."

Tails raised his arms in exasperation. "Knuckles, these echidnas aren't the ones who did those things! You heard Muscowequan; he hates what happened as much as you do!"

"Tails, for someone who's been through so much, you still have a degree of naivety. Muscowequan is a hypocrite. It's clear to me that he's just as power-hungry as Pachacamac. Do you honestly think that, if we were to place the seven Chaos Emeralds and the Master Emerald before him, he wouldn't take them for himself?"

Tails was silent for a moment. Then he shook his head. "No, I suppose you're right. Power corrupts like that. But what about the other echidnas? What have they done that angers you so much?"

"They've let such a reign of terror continue. Evil triumphs when the forces of good do nothing."

"So are we going to accuse every civilian in the world of being perpetrators of evil, just because they don't fight Eggman?"

"You're exaggerating the point, Tails, but you're basically right. If all the people in the world rose up against Eggman, he would be defeated. The robots he has under his command are more like a security force than an actual army. They wouldn't last long in all-out war on the sort of scale I'm thinking of. But alas, that's not going to happen anytime soon."

"You seem to be even bitterer than usual tonight."

Knuckles sighed again. He'd noticed that had become a habit of his in recent times. "I suppose the futility of our cause has just hit me more than usual recently. Up until two weeks ago, we always had a goal that could be achieved. At first it was to escape the ARK, and then it was to rescue Amy. Now, all that's left is a massive force of robots and a fiend with an unstoppable super-weapon to defeat. What achievable goal is there now?"

Tails leaned back against the wall, and stared into nothingness. "Well, first we have to escape from this place. Then, we could try and find other resistance forces. There must be others around."

Knuckles shook his head. "Tails, you know the only way any resistance group can survive nowadays is to exist in total secrecy. It would be almost impossible to find such a group."

Tails shrugged. "Well then, I suppose we just have to believe that there's still a part we have to play in this war."

Those words struck an instant chord with Knuckles. Tikal had said that there was still a part he had to play in this war. Unfortunately, Knuckles had no idea what that phantom role was. When he had pleaded to the Master Emerald for answers, it had led him here. Knuckles racked his brain as he tried to find a reason for that. Certainly, several thousand echidnas could be useful in the fight against Eggman, but there was no way they were going to enter that fight. They had spent millennia isolated from the rest of the world and, although Knuckles hated to admit it, they had done pretty well out of it. There was simply no reason for them to fight a foe who had made no action against them. Then, of course, there was the fact that the echidnas wouldn't follow Knuckles anyway. That was even more the case while Muscowequan ruled.

As Knuckles dwelt on these issues, he lost all track of time. That situation wasn't exactly helped by the lack of windows, but even Knuckles' internal clock didn't seem to pick up the time that had passed. Outside, the sun had set, and it was truly night time.

Knuckles' thoughts were interrupted by the sound of fighting upstairs. He heard several masculine screams, each of which was followed by a loud thud. As the last scream pierced the night, Knuckles and Tails saw an echidna fall down the stairs, hitting most of them in the process. As he landed on the floor just outside the cell, Knuckles noticed that one of the echidna's shoulders was dislocated. Just as Knuckles wondered who could possibly have defeated all those guards, he saw a familiar figure run down the stairs.

"Amy?" he questioned. Sure enough, it was Amy. Her face had a look of pure rage on it, and in her right hand, she held a red and yellow hammer that was larger than any Knuckles had ever seen. All in all, if Knuckles didn't know Amy personally, he would be very scared right now. Instead, he was merely very surprised that Amy had come.

Amy, on the other hand, didn't seem the slightest bit surprised. "That's right," she said eagerly, "and I'm here to rescue you!"

Knuckles raised his right hand. "Um, Amy, did it ever occur to you that we could escape ourselves?"

Amy clearly wasn't convinced. "Well, why are you still in there, then?"

Knuckles groaned. "We were waiting until it was darker, so we could escape without having to fight all the guards. Still, clearly they can't have been that tough."

"What did you say?" Amy shouted.

"He didn't say anything!" Tails interjected. "Say, Knuckles, why don't you get us out of here, just to prove your point?" That seemed to calm Amy down a bit.

Knuckles still stood agape at Amy's outburst, which seemed most unusual for her. Fortunately, Tails' request brought him back to reality. "Um, yeah," Knuckles said vaguely. He walked over to the bars of the prison and grabbed two adjacent ones, one in each hand. Then, he effortlessly bent them, spreading them apart to form a gap big enough to walk through, which he and Tails promptly did.

"There, you see Amy?" Knuckles boasted. "We had it all under control. Now do you believe that we can handle these situations?"

"Only if you believe that I can take care of myself," Amy replied.

Knuckles was about to voice an objection, but then he remembered that Amy was still holding the hammer. He didn't know how much damage that thing could do, and he wasn't exactly eager to be a test subject. "Okay, deal," he finally said.

The conversation came to an abrupt halt as Knuckles felt a burst of strange energy, and then heard a loud explosion above ground. "Did you bring someone else with you, Amy?" Tails asked. Amy shook her head, and her hands shook slightly as she did so.

"Then that's not good," Knuckles said. "Let's move!" There were no objections made as Knuckles ran up the stairs, two at a time, with Tails and Amy in hot pursuit. They sprinted out of the prison, paying no attention to the unconscious guards that had been strewn about the place like rag dolls.

The city was starting to dissolve into chaos. Screams could be heard in the streets, and Knuckles could see that one building had been leveled totally. Several trees were on fire, and it was only a matter of time before the fire spread further. There was no indication as to what had caused this. Lightning bolts were flashing around in the clouds above, but they showed no indication of striking anywhere near the city.

Once again, Knuckles' thoughts were interrupted, this time by a deep voice shouting, "Chaos Spear!" Knuckles felt another burst of energy as another loud explosion rocked the city, but he cared little for that now. He knew that voice. Flexing the muscles in his legs, Knuckles leapt to the top of a nearby building. Tails flew behind, carrying Amy.

Now, they could see what was happening. A familiar silhouette was floating in that sky above the city. Knuckles hoped that wasn't who he thought it was.

Alas, Knuckles' worst fears were confirmed, as a flash of lightning illuminated the area. The mystery figure was revealed. He was similar to Sonic in appearance, except his fur was black, with red streaks in his quills, and the quills on the side of his head went up rather than down. He was floating in the air with the aid of his read and white rocket shoes.

"Shadow!" Knuckles, Tails and Amy shouted in unison.

Clearly, Shadow must have heard that word, for he turned around in midair to face them. His red eyes seemed to pierce the barriers of Knuckles' mind. Knuckles tore his eyes away from them, and they darted to Shadow's right hand, which had the green Chaos Emerald in it. Knuckles flinched at the sight of that. It explained how Shadow was able to cause so much damage to the city, but it didn't make him feel any easier. He had assumed that Shadow simply had similar abilities to Sonic, but clearly he had a few more tricks up his sleeve.

"Well, well," Shadow said, "look who we have here."

"What are you doing here, Shadow?"

Shadow's eyes casually glanced around the city. "If I'm not mistaken, I'm destroying buildings. I'm possibly killing a few echidnas while I'm at it, as well."

Knuckles clenched his muscles tightly. Shadow wasn't even pretending to show any remorse whatsoever for his actions. Knuckles may have hated the echidnas who lived here, but that didn't mean they deserved to be slaughtered. "Okay, let me phrase that question differently: why did Eggman send you here?"

Shadow laughed to himself. "Who said this has anything to do with Dr Eggman? I do have a life outside of him, you know." Shadow shrugged. "Regardless, if you must know, the good doctor has asked me to do whatever is necessary to get the Master Emerald. Right now, my method seems to be working. I have you right where I want you. Now, hand over the Master Emerald, or I shall be forced to take it from you."

Knuckles raised his fists and scowled. "I'd like to see you try."

Shadow smirked. "Knuckles, don't you remember how easily I defeated you on the ARK?"

Knuckles remembered all too well. "You snuck up on me and knocked me out from behind. I hardly count that as a victory in your favour."

Shadow tossed the Chaos Emerald casually to himself. "I do what I need to do to win as quickly as possible. I could easily have defeated you in a fair fight if I'd wanted to. Why, Dr Eggman has told me that you couldn't even beat that faker of a blue hedgehog. If you couldn't beat him, how do you hope to last a minute against me?"

Knuckles' had been suppressing his growing rage all day, but that was simply too much. With a roar, Knuckles leapt straight at Shadow. Gliding, he closed the gap between them in a matter of seconds. Knuckles drew his fist back, preparing to hit Shadow with the strongest blow he could manage.

As Knuckles brought his fist forward, however, Shadow shouted, "Chaos Control!" Knuckles felt an intense energy as Shadow vanished in an instant, leaving no trace. Knuckles had a split second for his jaw to drop. Then, a blow to his back sent him hurtling towards the ground. His limp body smashed into the stonework of the town square where he had been questioned by Muscowequan.

As the dust cleared, Knuckles lay in the resulting crater. His eyes were closed as he tried to suppress the pain. Slowly he pushed his battered and bruised body off the ground. Knuckles gasped for air as he opened his eyes. All he saw were Shadow's eyes, staring at him at point-blank range.

The next thing Knuckles knew, Shadow had landed an uppercut on his chin, sending him off the ground. This was promptly followed by a roundhouse kick that sent Knuckles flying. He smashed through several buildings, causing Knuckles to scream at the sheer level of pain. Then, as he began to slow down, Knuckles felt that intense energy again. Then he felt Shadow send him flying back the way he came with another kick. While he didn't hit any buildings this time, the pain was still intense. The sensation of yet another burst of energy didn't help. Knuckles forced his eyes open, and saw Shadow standing in his path, preparing to land another blow. Knuckles didn't know if he could take another blow like the last two.

Luck was on Knuckles side, though, as Shadow was taken by surprise by a blow from Amy's hammer. The blow sent the black hedgehog flying away. In the next instant, Tails grabbed Knuckles' arms, stopping his deadly flight. Rotating his tails faster than Knuckles had even seen him do so, Tails propelled the pair into the air. Knuckles could see Amy running through the crowds in the streets below. No one tried to stop her. They were all too busy fleeing out of fear for their lives.

Then, Knuckles heard Shadow shout, "Chaos Spear!" from a rooftop. Knuckles felt yet another burst of energy. He was really starting to wonder what caused those. That was the least of his concerns, though, for as Knuckles turned his head around, he saw a large bolt of energy headed straight for him and Tails.

"Drop me!" Knuckles shouted. Tails didn't need to be told twice. He let go of Knuckles' arms, causing the echidna to drop towards the ground. At the same time, Tails ascended. An instant later, the bolt of energy shot through the gap where Knuckles and Tails had just been.

As Knuckles fell he repositioned his body, so as to land on his feet as he hit the ground. He did so, bending his legs as he hit the ground so as to lessen the impact. Knuckles began panting, and he could feel sweat dampening his fur. He was losing this battle, and he knew it. He had to get out of here. He was the one Shadow wanted. If he could get out of here in one piece, then he could lure Shadow away from the city. But then what could he do? Shadow seemed to be unbeatable. Knuckles frowned. He was going to need to sink to Shadow's level. It was time for a sneak attack.

"You can run, but you can't hide, Knuckles!" Shadow shouted, although fortunately from a considerable distance. "I'll find you, and I will take the Master Emerald!" As if to prove his point, Shadow fired off another Chaos Spear attack. Once again, Knuckles felt that same burst of energy. Why did he keep feeling this? "I'll level this entire city if that's what it takes to find you!"

That drove the point home to Knuckles. A sneak attack was not getting to get the job done in time. Shadow would destroy Nachide before Knuckles would be able to put such a plan into action. He would need to stop Shadow, and he needed to do it soon.

But what could he do? Shadow moved faster than the eye could see. Knuckles hadn't even known Sonic to move that fast. Then, in one instant, it hit him. Shadow wasn't moving that fast at all. Somehow, he was using the Chaos Emerald to teleport around the place. That's all that that "Chaos Control" thing was. Somehow, Knuckles could sense when Shadow was using this or Chaos Spear. That's what that strange energy was that he felt. Somehow, the Master Emerald must have granted him some sort of sixth sense that detected the energy of the Chaos Emeralds. Certainly, it had helped him to find the shards of the Master Emerald on the two occasions that it had been shattered.

Knuckles tested his theory by closing his eyes. Sure enough, without any outside distractions, he could now pinpoint the exact location of the Chaos Emerald. Knuckles grinned. Now he had the edge. Knuckles could have simply used the Master Emerald to stop Shadow's Chaos Emerald, but that would do little to help. Shadow could probably beat him even without a Chaos Emerald. Ironically, that Chaos Emerald was probably the best help Knuckles was going to get.

Keeping his eyes closed, Knuckles walked towards the location of the Chaos Emerald. He had to feel his way along the walls, which slowed his progress somewhat. A few blasts of Chaos Spear from Shadow threw him off course a bit, but he eventually got close.

"So," Shadow said, "you're trying to fight me with your eyes closed?" Knuckles opened his eyes and saw Shadow standing at the far end of the street. Every building around him was in ruins, and there were a few echidna corpses strewn around the area. The large holes in their chest indicated that they'd been victims of Chaos Spear. "Still, I suppose your attacks couldn't wind up any further from the mark than your first one. What were you thinking, taking me on in such a rash fashion?"

Knuckles scowled. It was now or never. He charged straight at Shadow. The black hedgehog didn't move, and simply folded his arms across his chest. Knuckles didn't falter in his charge. He knew that he had to look like he was trying his same old "strategy."

Then, as he prepared to strike Shadow, Knuckles closed his eyes. Sure enough, Shadow shouted, "Chaos Control!" Once again, Knuckles felt that burst of energy. This time, though, he followed it with his mind, and he pinpointed Shadow's new position as being directly behind him. Knuckles twirled on the spot and aimed a mighty backhand blow at that exact point. It connected with a sickening crunch, and Knuckles could sense Shadow being flung away at high speed.

Knuckles opened his eyes and pursued Shadow. The black hedgehog skidded to a halt, ironically in the same crater Knuckles had created earlier. Shadow tried to speak, but coughed up blood as he did so. Knuckles must have hit him even harder than he thought he had.

Knuckles seized his chance. He leapt into a crater, and punched Shadow in the stomach. Shadow gasped for air, but Knuckles wasn't about to give him the chance. Knuckles began rapidly punching Shadow, being sure not to give the black hedgehog the slightest opening.

Unfortunately, Knuckles had forgotten to restrain Shadow's legs, and the black hedgehog kicked Knuckles in the back, sending him flying into the air. Knuckles regained control of his body, and landed safely on one of the few buildings in the area that hadn't been ruined. He looked back at the crater, expecting Shadow to leap out and attack him. What he found instead surprised him even more.

Male echidnas were pouring into the area, and each one attacked Shadow whenever they had the chance. Although Shadow could easily have beaten on them, he was heavily outnumbered, and he had to use all of his fighting ability to keep them from crushing him like a bug.

Still, Knuckles knew all too well that Shadow would eventually win, and if he did, then Knuckles wouldn't be able to beat him. As much as Knuckles hated to admit it, he was on his last legs, and there was no way he could beat Shadow in a fair fight now. Nor was it likely that Shadow would fall for the same trick Knuckles had just used to beat him to a standstill. Knuckles knew that he had to finish this now.

Knuckles pulled the Master Emerald out from under his glove, and let it grow to full size as he placed it on the roof. Then, Knuckles began to chant the poem that Tikal had apparently used to seal Chaos in the Master Emerald. "The Servers are the seven Chaos..." Knuckles said. Instantly, he could feel his energy starting to drain. Tikal had needed to sacrifice her body to do what she did. Knuckles hoped that he had more energy left in him than she had had that day. "Chaos is power; power is enriched by the heart..." Knuckles began panting heavily. "The Controller is the one that unifies the Chaos."

Before Knuckles could say anything more, though, he heard Shadow shout out, "Chaos Control!" The intense burst of energy was too much for Knuckles to take at that time. He cried out in pain as he collapsed. He blacked out before he hit the ground.


"Knuckles, wake up!" a voice cried out. Knuckles opened his eyes, and saw Tails and Amy kneeling next to him. They both had worried expressions on their faces.

Frankly, Knuckles wasn't worried about his own state at the moment. He'd felt far worse after his fight with Eta than he did right now. Knuckles raised his right hand, holding it open. "Master Emerald..." he whispered. Much to his surprise, Knuckles saw two echidnas bring the Master Emerald towards him, holding it between them. They placed it in Knuckles' hand. He shrank it instantly and slipped it under his glove. In that instant, he began to feel the Master Emerald's energy flowing through him, for it could give energy as well as take it.

Knuckles closed his eyes again and focused his mind, scanning the area for Shadow's Chaos Emerald. He couldn't sense it anymore. That surely meant that Shadow had fled the area completely, for it would be folly for him to simply abandon a Chaos Emerald.

Knuckles rose to his feet. He swayed slightly as he did so, but he managed the feat. Unfortunately, it was at this point that he realised that he, Tails and Amy were surrounded by male echidnas. They must have climbed up onto the rooftop after Knuckles blacked out. Knuckles frowned. Now he was not only going to have to explain why he had come here, but also why a large portion of Nachide now lay in ruins. Knuckles sighed. As much as he hated to admit it, he had something else to say first. "Thanks for your help back there, guys," he said, not making eye contact with any of them. "If you hadn't come to help me out there, I would probably have been killed.

There was silence for a moment. Then, one of the male echidnas stepped towards Knuckles slightly. "How did you do that, with the big emerald?"

Knuckles scratched his head. Truthfully, he didn't know how to explain it. "It's a long story."

"And one that you should be telling us!" a familiar gruff voice exclaimed. The circle parted to let Muscowequan through. He walked with a young female echidna whom Knuckles didn't recognise. She had magenta fur, and wore a simple white gown. Knuckles could just make out a ladder behind the pair of them. That would explain how they all got up here. Muscowequan walked up to Knuckles. "Well, Knuckles, do you feel up to explaining what's going on now?"

Knuckles shrugged. "Well, as much as I hate to admit it, I do owe my life to your guards, so I suppose they deserve to know. Of course, you're not going to leave to allow me to tell them in private, so I suppose you have to hear as well."

Muscowequan gritted his teeth and tightened his grip on his staff. "Very well."

Knuckles resisted the urge to grin. Muscowequan was so easy to anger. "Well, I suppose that I should start at the beginning. As most of you would know, my name's Knuckles. I'm the guardian of Angel Island and the Master Emerald."

There were a few murmurs amongst the crowd, but most of the echidnas had a blank expression on their face. The young female echidna, however, looked shocked to the bone. "Do you mean the emerald that can stop the Chaos Emeralds, the one that Tikal sealed Chaos in after he went berserk?"

Knuckles nodded. "The very same, but..."

Muscowequan interrupted him, shouting, "You brought the beast here?" Most of the male echidnas looked towards Knuckles' right glove and backed away slowly.

Knuckles raised his hands in an attempt to bring order. "Take it easy, will you? Let me finish." The crowd slowly began to calm down, until the silence was almost eerie. "As I was saying, Chaos, or 'the beast', was sealed in the Master Emerald millennia ago. However, he was released well over a year ago. He wreaked a large amount of destruction on one particular city far to the north, but fortunately he was defeated by someone I knew. Chaos has now vanished from this world." Knuckles knew better than to say where Chaos had gone. He hadn't shared the vision he had received from Tikal with anyone, and he had no intention to start now.

"Wait a minute, someone you knew?" Muscowequan asked with a raised eyebrow."What happened to him?"

Knuckles closed his eyes for a moment. He certainly didn't want to look back and see the expressions on his companions' faces. As Knuckles opened his eyes, he said, "He died a little over a year ago."

There were shocked expressions and assorted murmurs spread throughout the crowd of echidnas. "How could the one who defeated Chaos die so easily?" the young female echidna asked.

Knuckles' expression hardened. "Sonic, as he was called, was killed by Dr Eggman, the man who now rules most of the world."

Most of the echidnas looked down at the ground, as a sign of silent respect for someone whom, although they didn't know him, they recognised as a great hero. Muscowequan was unmoved. "Fascinating story there, Knuckles, but you still haven't explained who that black hedgehog was and why he came here tonight."

"That black hedgehog is called Shadow. I know nothing of his past or his motives. All I know is that he appeared shortly before Sonic's death, and was mistaken for him by many. Shadow allied himself with Dr Eggman, and was one of the key forces behind the fiend's rise to power. He's one of the deadliest beings I have ever come across. He shows no mercy, has abilities equal to Sonic's, and rarely lets his guard down." Knuckles hesitated for a moment. He knew how the next thing he had to say was going to be interpreted. "He came to take the Master Emerald from me. The Eclipse Cannon, the super weapon with which Eggman holds the entire world in check, is powered by Chaos Emeralds. Thus, the Master Emerald is the last real obstacle to Eggman having total control over the planet."

"I knew it!" Muscowequan shouted triumphantly. "That black hedgehog came here because of you! It is because of you that our city has taken such a heavy blow. It is because of you that echidnas lie dead in the streets!" Knuckles frowned. He'd been expecting such a reaction.

"Father!" the young female echidna cried out.

"Quiet, Rache-Lu! Out of everyone here, you should understand where I'm coming from the most. I told you what I saw in the stars last night. I saw a sign, a sign that one of our race, but an outsider, would come to the village. I saw that he would bring great death and destruction to our fair city, and send us back to the dark ages!" Once again, there were murmurs throughout the group. Knuckles was shocked by this revelation, but he took it with a grain of salt. He had never been one to believe in such ridiculous practices as astrology. Unfortunately, Muscowequan didn't seem to share that view.

"Father," Rache-Lu replied, "Knuckles risked his life fighting Shadow. He risked his life to save us!"

Knuckles was touched by Rache-Lu's defense of him, but he had no desire to continue this line of argument. "Rache-Lu, it's not necessary to defend me," Knuckles said calmly. "Your father's right in a sense. It was because I was in this city that Shadow attacked it. I would remind everyone, though, that I would not have been in the city when Shadow made his move if you hadn't been holding me and Tails prisoner. Regardless, you have more important things to worry about now."

Muscowequan glared at Knuckles suspiciously. "What do you mean?" he growled with the slightest hint of fear in his voice.

"I mean that, although Shadow has no interest in this city, he will almost certainly inform Eggman of its location. If Eggman does find out, he will attack this city. He hates any sign of resistance, however passive it may be. He will attack, and he will wipe out any of you who are still in the city."

There was silence, and every echidna on the roof stood agape at this shocking resolution. Much, to Knuckles' surprise, it was Tails who broke the silence. "You still have some time," he said calmly. "Eggman's not going to attack you with the Eclipse Cannon. Not only would it be blatant overkill, but it would probably destroy the Earth. It's a miracle the planet survived one shot; Eggman's not going to push his luck again now that he basically has control of the planet."

Knuckles nodded in agreement. "Tails is right, but you have to move fast. Eggman is probably going to send every robot he can spare to attack you, so as to wipe you out quickly. How long do you think it will take for the first wave to arrive here, Tails?"

"Let me think." Tails stared blankly into space, and stroked the fur on his chin. About a minute later, he stopped. "About three hours, given the isolated nature of this place. That gives you lot an hour to get away, if you don't want Eggman to catch you. I'd try and get out in half the time, just to be sure."

"You expect us to leave our homes in a mere thirty minutes?" Muscowequan gasped incredulously.

Knuckles shrugged. "That's what you have to do if you want to survive. I'd recommend heading to the south. Eggman has little or no presence down there. Find a secluded area, and lay very, very low there. Eggman will be looking for you, but after a while he'll lessen his search. We'll see to that."

"I've got a better idea: why don't we stay on Angel Island? After all, it's your fault we're in this mess, so you should be the one to get us out."

"Forget it," Knuckles stated flatly. "I've entrusted you with more information than you deserve. I'd die before I let you on Angel Island." There was silence for a moment, before Knuckles added, "I'd get going, if I were you."

The echidnas began to slowly file down the ladder and off the rooftop. Soon, Muscowequan was the only one left facing Knuckles and co. "May chaos haunt your every movement for the rest of your days," Muscowequan said. He spat in Knuckles' general direction. Fortunately, he missed completely.

Without saying anything more, Muscowequan left, leaving Knuckles, Tails and Amy alone on the rooftop.


About half an hour later, Knuckles, Tails and Amy stood at the edge of Nachide, watching the long procession of echidnas leaving the city. They were headed south, as Knuckles had advised. No one quite knew where they were going to end up, or what would happen to them.

The procession trudged along slowly, their heads hung low and their backs hunched under the heavy burdens of what few items they could carry. Some carried supplies, but the items appeared to be mostly of a personal nature. No one carried the bodies of those who had been slain in the night. They were promptly buried, with some minor identifying marks to distinguish the graves from each other.

Still, Knuckles knew that there would be a need for more graves in the future. There were many elderly echidnas in the group, and they were clearly not cut out for travel. Some of the young children would also inevitably perish, whether due to the physical strain or to some unforeseeable catastrophe. Knuckles even spotted one female echidna who was heavily pregnant. There was no way that she and her baby were going to survive the horrible trek.

Knuckles had never seen a more forlorn group. Perhaps if he had been able to see the people in the earliest days of the Eggman Empire, he would have seen such a sight, but as it stood, he hadn't. The sight of these echidnas, abandoning everything they had worked so hard to achieve, saddened Knuckles, and part of him hated himself for feeling that way. This was the race that had condemned the world to horrors beyond count. It made little difference, though, for no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't shake that feeling of empathy.

As Knuckles thought on these matters, he noticed one echidna leave the group and run towards him. It was Rache-Lu, but she looked so different from before that Knuckles had trouble recognising her at first. Instead of the white dress she had worn before, she now wore an olive green tunic, with brown leather boots that went halfway up her shin. She had used some white bandages to tie up her dreadlocks into a ponytail, which altered her appearance somewhat. Rache-Lu had a bow slung over her shoulder, and a quiver of arrows tied to a belt around her hips. She had a large backpack on her back, and carried two books under her arm.

Rache-Lu soon reached Knuckles, Tails and Amy. "Hi, Knuckles," she said, panting as she did so. Then, she absentmindedly added on, "Tails, Amy."

"Hi, Rache-Lu," Knuckles replied. Tails and Amy nodded in acknowledgement.

Several long moments of silence endured. Then, to break the silence, Amy asked, "So, what's with the change in clothes?" She pointed at Rache-Lu's tunic as if to emphasise the point.

Rache-Lu looked down at her tunic. "Oh, this?" she questioned. "I do a bit of hunting in my spare time. You know, to get food for the village and all that. This is just what I wear when I'm doing that."

"That would explain the bow, I assume," Knuckles said. Rache-Lu nodded. "I find it hard to believe that your father would let you do that."

Rache-Lu glanced around awkwardly. "Well, it's a long story. To cut it short, he doesn't like me doing it, but he lets me."

Knuckles knew better than to enquire any further. Whatever issues Rache-Lu had with her father were none of Knuckles' business. "So, what did you come here for? I don't think you're arrogant enough to come here just to show off your hunting gear."

Rache-Lu hesitated for a moment. "Well, two things actually," she finally said. "First, you said that Dr Eggman's weapon, the Eclipse Cannon, was powered by Chaos Emeralds, didn't you?" Knuckles nodded. "Well, why don't you just use the Master Emerald to stop the Chaos Emeralds? Then the Eclipse Cannon will be powerless, and Dr Eggman will lose his most powerful weapon."

Knuckles sighed. "Believe me, Rache-Lu, I tried doing just that when I saw that Eggman was about to fire the Eclipse Cannon at the Earth. But he's done something that prevented the Master Emerald from working there."

"You're half right, Knuckles," Tails added. "But Eggman didn't have enough time with the Eclipse Cannon to put in something that complicated. I think it would actually have been Professor Gerald Robotnik, Eggman's grandfather and the creator of the Eclipse Cannon, who put the safeguard in place. He was quite famous in his time, and to pull off the sorts of breakthroughs he did in the study of the Chaos Emeralds, he had to do some research into the ancient Echidna Empire. You know, legends, stone tablets, murals, that sort of thing. Anyway, he would probably have found out about the Master Emerald that way, and been able to put together a safeguard around the Eclipse Cannon. Basically, the safeguard makes it impossible to deactivate the Chaos Emeralds in the Eclipse Cannon from long-range."

Knuckles had only been casually listening to what Tails had said, both because he already knew the gist of it and because he hated it when Tails contradicted him. "Regardless, the only way I'd be able to use the Master Emerald to stop the Chaos Emeralds would be if I could get right to the Eclipse Cannon. Nowadays, that's pretty much impossible."

"Why is that?" Rache-Lu inquired.

"Two reasons. First, because Eggman has so many weapons and robots guarding it now that it's ridiculous. Second, because the Eclipse Cannon is up in space, and we don't have any means of getting up there."

"Space? You mean..." Rache-Lu pointed up at the sky. It was still night, so the stars were still visible. "...up there?"

Knuckles nodded. "That's right. The Eclipse Cannon is part of the Space Colony ARK. You might be able to see it some nights, for all I know. I stopped looking at the night sky after Eggman blew up half the moon with the Eclipse Cannon." Sure enough, Knuckles could see the half of the moon that remained right now.

"Oh, so that's how that happened. It caused quite a bit of panic around here when we first noticed it. My father and many others thought it was a sign of the apocalypse." Rache-Lu sighed. "I suppose, in a way, they were right."

Knuckles nodded vaguely. "So, what was the other thing you wanted?"

"I wanted to give you these books." Rache-Lu held out the two books she'd been carrying under her arm. They were dusty and a bit torn, but still in decent condition. "The first one's a guide to our script and language. You probably already know a bit of it, though, since there are probably a few inscriptions around Angel Island." That was true. Knuckles had noticed a few tablets dotted around Angel Island and, although he wasn't quite sure how he'd learned the script, he'd been able to read most of them. "Anyway," Rache-Lu continued, "that book's really just to help you read the second one, which is basically a history of our race." Seeing the frown on Knuckles' face, Rache-Lu added, "Look Knuckles, I know you have a loathing for our people, and I'm not trying to change that. I just think that maybe you should just learn a little bit more about us before you judge us too harshly." Rache-Lu held out the books, urging Knuckles to take them.

Knuckles was severely tempted to refuse to take them. It wasn't really any of her business what he thought, given that they'd probably never see each other again. Still, he knew better than to do that. Last night, Knuckles had made a plea to the Master Emerald: a plea for answers. Now, he was being offered something that could potentially contain the answers he was looking for. So, rather than let his pride take control, Knuckles gently took the books out of Rache-Lu's hands, and tucked them under his arm.

"How do you know so much about things like the Master Emerald anyway, Rache-Lu?" Knuckles asked. "No one else seemed to have a clue what I was talking about."

"Oh, I usually read when I'm not out hunting," Rache-Lu replied. "There are enough hints in various books for one to figure out these things. That one you're holding is a very good one, actually."

"Why do you do it? Frankly, it seems like a rather boring way to spend your time."

"Well, I find it interesting, regardless of what you think. Besides, only when we understand the past can we save the present and the future."

Knuckles nodded vaguely. It seemed to make some sense, even if he wasn't one who liked living in the past. Certainly, if these books contained the answers he was looking for, then what Rache-Lu had said would be true. "Well, I suppose, you'd better be off, then," Knuckles said. The procession of echidnas out of the city was nearly at its end. "You wouldn't want to be left behind now, would you?"

Rache-Lu didn't answer that question. Instead, she simply said, "Well, maybe we'll see each other again someday."

"I doubt it." Upon seeing Rache-Lu's downcast expression, Knuckles shrugged and added, "But you never know, it could happen."

Rache-Lu began to walk away. She had walked a few steps when she suddenly stopped in her tracks. Turning around, she asked, "Knuckles, are there any other echidnas on Angel Island?"

"No," Knuckles replied with a shake of his head. "Should there be?" As far as he'd known, he'd been alone for most of his life. He certainly hadn't seen any signs of any recent large-scale echidna habitation of Angel Island. He couldn't explain how that meant he'd come into being, but he had learnt to deal with it, for the most part.

Suddenly, Rache-Lu seemed strangely distant. "No, of course not." With those words, she turned around and ran back to rejoin the procession of echidnas. The last echidnas were even now leaving the city. There was no sign of life left within. As the procession of echidnas passed out of sight, all that could be heard was the gentle whistling of the wind.

As Knuckles looked upon the now empty city of Nachide, he realised why the sight saddened him so much. Certainly, there was a sense of empathy with the echidnas, but that was only a small part of it. The bigger cause of his misery was guilt. Deep down, Knuckles knew that this was his fault. His search for answers had brought him here, and he had unwittingly brought Shadow with him. Because of that, because of him, the echidnas of Nachide had lost their livelihood and, in some cases, their lives.

As Knuckles gazed at the abandoned, ruined city of Nachide, he wondered whether answers could ever make up for the lives that had been lost and ruined because of him.
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