Once again Sonic curled into Spin Dash position, revving up in place as streaks of energy like fireflies danced through the air and into his body. A soft blue glow began to radiate from the spinning hedgehog, filling the room with pale light that seemed to wrestle with the harsh sunset of Mecha Sonic’s rockets.
The robot was unsure how to interpret this new development- it had no knowledge of this ability or what sort of countermeasures to take. Scans told it the beads of light were hot enough to burn through steel, yet its fleshy opponent seemed to be absorbing them. Firing on Sonic while he was vulnerable would have normally been the mechanical soldier’s first concern, but the presence of the dangerous force swarming around hedgehog now stayed its hand. The Spin Dash couldn’t strike airborne targets without a sufficient incline to launch from. It would be safer to wait and observe the enemy’s next move.
Suddenly the Sonic’s spinning stopped and he uncurled, feet slapping to a halt as he rose again to his full height. Now however the a sheath of blue light laminated his body like a ghostly film, transparent enough to allow the teen to smirk through at his silvery opposite. Mecha Sonic cautiously raised its right set of digits towards the glowing hedgehog, sensing no more volatile energy despite the change in appearance.
To little to late. The Light Speed Attack cracked through the air before the bullets left their barrels, blasting the robot’s right arm to pieces.
Half of Mecha Sonic’s body was engulfed in black smoke and trickling flames as the limb’s ammunition ignited all at once, shrapnel rolling to the floor in burning chunks. Nonetheless the machine remained absolutely steady, attempting to take aim again with its other arm, only to find its target was still moving. Sonic’s spinning form ignored gravity and orbited his foe like a spiked satellite, leaving numberless after-images in circles around the machine. It was impossible for the chromed combatant to determine his movements through the blur of intersecting contrails. Mecha Sonic made a pirouette mid air, discharging its remaining weapons aimlessly in every direction, a desperate effort that proved useless. Bullets ricocheted harmlessly about the walls of the complex, adding their noise to the strange sound the hedgehog’s Light Speed Attack made in its circuit.
Another crack and the left arm was obliterated, creating another burst of smoke and flame.
Sonic ceased his circling and emerged from the cloud of after-images above the look-a-like. Taking advantage of this position, he slammed his heel with as much force as he could muster down on his opponent’s head, sending it crashing towards the bottom floor.
Mecha Sonic’s thrusters cut when it hit the floor, plunging their battlefield again into darkness. Sonic landed crouching, he supposed some distance away, feeling only slightly winded. He stretched, arching his back as he spoke.
“I’ve learned a few tricks since our last little play date, as you can see.”
The shadows gave no answer, but he was certain the machine was still operational. It had a track record for handling heavy damage. This fight wasn’t quite over.
“Come on, I know this has been a ‘disarming’ experience for you,” he said with a grin. “but I know you haven’t given up yet. Don’t keep me waiting!”
At first there was more silence. Then a loud clank, like metal hitting metal. Another clank, followed by the earsplitting sound of something scratching against the floor, sending a irritated shudder through his body. Slowly yellow compound eyes rolled down into view, as Sonic realized the robot was rising off its back just with its legs, using its mechanical joints in ways that would make limbo dancers jealous. The eyes continued to move downwards before settling slightly below Sonic’s own height. He had feeling he knew what was coming and braced himself.
The red glow returned, revealing Mecha Sonic crouching on the other side of the room, thrusters burning. The wheels on its feet screech wildly as it rammed the organic hedgehog at full speed, smashing both of them through the wall and into the training room.
‘Just like old times’ Sonic thought.
The evacuation was long underway, orders going out at the clamor of the Egg Viper’s destruction hours ago, when the countless mechanical inhabitants of Metropolis abandoned what they were doing to begin their flight. Workers emptied from their factories, shutting down the conveyer belts and refineries and power plants. Block by block the lights of the city went out in waves, buildings vanishing into the valley’s shadow. Assembly lines ceased; construction sites were deserted. Everywhere the most valuable items were gathered and piled into trains for transport; important equipment, experimental machinery, rare materials, archaeological pieces uncovered in the ruins, research specimens, and so on. Precious fuel was also moved with haste, tanks upon tanks of it, any that could still be used in other facilities. Missiles, guns, weighty cannons, and explosives too were dragged by the crate full to be stacked in train cars; the enemy could not get the opportunity to steal or study their weapons technology. Slowly the circle of defenses around Metropolis began to pull away, heading for bunkers and hideouts in the jungle, while all-terrain vehicles crowded with robots dove into the bush. A scant number of guards remained in place at any important juncture, watching and waiting to determine if further action might be necessary to preserve any of the city’s resources.
Despite reasonable assurance that progress was being made in the mass exodus, there were a few things the Doctor felt the need to double check, just to be certain. He glanced back and forth from the small screen in the Eggmobile’s cockpit to the blackened corridors of Mechanical Resonance, trying to steer the hovercraft out of harm’s way. Most of the badniks patrolling the halls were destroyed in the hedgehog’s prior rampage, so there were fewer obstacles to dodge now, but he still had to be careful. The giant claws used in constructing pieces of the Egg Carriers could be dangerous if crashed into at his current speed, and even when they were no longer moving they took up a lot of space. These and other devices in the Final Egg were starting to shut down, but it would take time before power was completely cut from the base. Many of the various machines in the Doctor’s facilities ran on independent power supplies so they could remain operational in the event of something jeopardizing the primary energy sources.
After cruising lower to duck under an observation platform, the scientist turned his attention back to the little screen, scrolling through status reports. E-107, E-108, and E-109 were in the process of being moved out of the city; none were anywhere near completion, but the designs had already been worked out and all three could be finished en-route to their destination. The capsules containing the organic batteries so essential to sustaining the Empire were being loaded onto the Egg Liner for transport to the Iron Jungle deeper in the island. The Doctor raised his eyebrows at the figures for the small animals being evacuated- he had not relocated this many since the Flying Battery’s journey to Angel Island, and then most of the capsules on-board were empty or contained something else.
What worried him most however was the successful extraction of all data from the Final Egg’s computers. The information stored here was vital to the function of his army and any hope of future conquest. The tactical advantage it would give his enemies if it fell into their hands was enormous. Every last disk, hard drive, and storage device was either to be removed or erased. All the computers would be wiped clean and their connection to the Matrix mainframe severed.
The Doctor tore his eyes away again to examine the path in front of him, piloting the Eggmobile upward over a couple of high steps and down a sharp-curved hallway. It led to a small room with with five doors and a trio of security cameras shining yellow light at him in an accusatory fashion. He gave an agitated sigh at his poor luck; this room took advantage of the Final Egg’s massive size and allowed the surrounding corridors to be rotated around the exterior of the room like a giant puzzle box, changing which door led to the next room every two hours. This was a security measure to prevent anyone from accessing his private control room in the upper recesses of the tower. He’d forgotten to turn it off and now he was running out of time.
Acting quickly he attempted to remotely access the system controlling the doors to make them all open at once, typing madly on the Eggmobile’s keyboard.
He heard some commotion behind him and the typing grew even more frantic.
Not soon enough for his liking, the doors finally opened.
Out of each flew a E-06 unit, a round, floating sentry badnik with a bottom half not dissimilar to the Doctor’s own hovercraft and a dark blue top half decorated with pointy ears and light blue eyes in a perpetual scowl. Mostly intended for observing and reporting security problems to other, more elite units or for scouting out hard to reach locations ahead of their parties in the field, the “Spinas” were not particularly effective in combat but in groups like this could be intimidating. This model’s defensive capabilities were limited to a pair of constantly rotating scythes with plasma-bladed tips, capable of cutting through almost anything with ease but possessing a very small range. They were stationed here to respond to intruders who picked the wrong door.
The correct one, he noted, was unoccupied. He turned to the door on the far right, where there was no Spina, preparing to fly down it as fast as possible.
Before his hands could grip the wheel, a violent impact rocked the walls around him, and the sound of metal rending apart could be heard down the hall he just passed through.
“You now, I actually like some of the additions you made to ol’ Mecha Me...” a voice spoke thoughtfully.
The hedgehog’s voice. The Doctor twisted to look down the hallway, snarling, teeth clenched.
“.... but still, that whole charging forward without anything to protect the front? Not the smartest move when I’ve got Rings to take the damage away and can Spin Dash into his body for a good three seconds before the invincibility wears off.”
Sonic strode into the room, as calm and cocky as ever, clutching some big charred hunk of machinery between his hands.
Despite the levity of his tone, he was not showing off the familiar toothy grin. In its place was a grimace, which was also familiar to the Doctor; it was more intense than a frown, yet more placid than a glower.
The Doctor didn’t like seeing this face.
The hedgehog stopped and stood between him and the door he sought to enter, not quite blocking the path, but just enough to make the Doctor very uncomfortable. Sonic rubbed his hands around the metal object like it was a basket ball and he was trying to feel the bumps.
“Granted,” he went on, taking another step forward. “it worked alright back on the Death Egg, when I didn’t have any Rings for the whole fight. That was a tough fix. When I finally did beat him, I really thought you had run out of things to throw at me.”
Sonic dropped the robot’s head to the floor beneath them, Mecha Sonic’s yellow visor staring up at its maker.
“Even these days though, I forget how it really is. I forget that you always have more, and more, and more, don’t you Eggman?”
“ATTACK!” the Doctor ordered. The four Spinas dived into action at their master’s cry, flying towards the meat creature with their spinning blades at full speed, boxing in the foe at all sides.
Easily and gracefully Sonic leaped over this simple formation, coming back down to strike them one by one. Like a skipping stone on water he splashed from one enemy to the next, azure shock waves peeling off his airborne body, badniks exploding in a shower of sparks. The Spinas’ ruined remains joined Mecha Sonic on the floor. Four small animals, suspended briefly in green barriers while the shrapnel fell where robots used to be, scurried towards their rescuer as he landed among them. He crossed his arms, watching the critters crawl around his feet.
“Up ‘til about now, I had a theory, doctor...” he continued, seemingly ignoring what just happened.
Behind tinted shades the Doctor was rapidly looking from Sonic, to the door, to his keyboard, and back again. Everything about this situation was bad. This Eggmobile had no weapons, not even the cryogenic explosives he’d outfitted his other vehicle with earlier, which then did little but assist his enemy when deployed. He’d need to carry a firearm from now on, whatever the circumstances.
“I figured maybe just crushing your toys would teach you a lesson for once- but it looks like you still got toys to spare." the teen said as he surveyed the shattered badniks. “I mean, where does it end? Giant missiles, backup Egg Carriers, even another Mecha Sonic! Are you hiding another giant robot that looks like you somewhere?”
The scientist put his vast mind to work trying to think of a way out of the present predicament. There had to be a means of incapacitating the hedgehog. He just had to keep the boy talking until he could come up with something.
“I must apologize, my most determined nemesis, but I’m afraid there are no more functional mechs around here, so sorry to disappoint.” the Doctor began. “I would certainly have prepared one if I had the chance.”
Sonic rolled his eyes at the excessive formalities.
“Really?” he questioned. “None? No Egg Viper 2.0? No multiple backup Eggmobile-attachments for me to fight in sequence? No sentimental recreations of past battles?”
“Very interesting ideas, but no, the fact is I wasn’t expecting you visit again so soon.” the Doctor answered, his craft gliding to right soundlessly. “Why in fact did you choose to follow me here with such determination? After all the excitement in Station Square I imagined you’d had enough for one day...”
“Well, that’s just it Eggman,” Sonic replied, voice growing louder. “I thought that you had enough after we took down your Egg Carrier and your new pet, but then I hear you tried to nuke the whole city! Good thing Tails was there, or there wouldn’t have been much left for Chaos to wreck!”
He drew his fingers across his mustache contemplatively, head tilting to the side.
“So, did my attempted use of lethal force seem excessive to you, this particular time?” the scientist prodded.
“Even you know that this went too far,” Sonic muttered, stepping closer to the floating vehicle. “this was beyond excessive.”
“I had hoped that, through Chaos, I could crush and take over the city perhaps more gradually.” he protested. “You forced my hand after you broke us apart! Things would have worked out differently if my plan were allowed to proceed...”
The Doctor’s dark glasses scanned the space above them for a moment, his face growing pensive.
“It isn’t like I haven’t used equally deadly weapons of mass destruction before, after all. You have seen what my more impressive creations could do on the Floating Island and else where- even experienced a few first hand! Surely that little incident with the missile could not be what compelled you to chase after me.”
“This isn’t like blowing up an empty volcano, Eggman!” Sonic countered, not noticing that the Doctor began typing something into the controls of his hovercraft. “You put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk today, and now because of you innocent people are dead! I’m not just going to let you get away with that!”
“Oh-ho, and what exactly do you plan on doing about it, child?” he asked coldly, eyes now glued to the ceiling.
The hedgehog gazed steadily at the man, matching his icy tone.
“Maybe turning you over to the military will do the trick...”
Now the Doctor’s attention was fully on Sonic, and his face contorted into an expression of unmitigated fury.
“NO!” he bellowed. “Those fools will NOT capture another Robotnik! I’ll die first!”
A look of confusion passed over Sonic’s face at this exclamation, but he had little time to wonder at it as violet plasma streams suddenly speared between the two of them, forcing him to back flip to safety. White, spherical machines with small propellers had fallen from a trap door over head and formed a barricade of sizzling beams around the young hero, fencing him off from his adversary.
The Doctor grinned in devious pleasure at seeing his trap work. He had never found an appropriate trigger for dropping the security drones, but keeping them around anyway had proved a fortunate decision.
Wasting no time, he rocketed through the door and down the corridor, the pod’s exhaust trailing behind him as he made for the control room. There was a terrible noise behind, a crunching sound and a whirring like the wind, but he ignored it and focused on reaching his goal. Eyes locked straight ahead, he searched desperately for the entrance. The hall was dark and narrow but opened up to a wider, higher room, and the exit was somewhere above. He pulled the Eggmobile up to fly over a ledge, and the sound became a howl that was drawing ever closer. But he was almost there- he could see it! The circle of golden bird statues, and above them, the tunnel leading to the top of the Final Egg!
The smooth, polished swallows were a minor art project of his, the sort of distractions he allowed himself whenever designing a new base of operations. Surrounding the opening in the ceiling that led to the control room and facing outward, the shimmering metal likenesses represented the various little creatures he harvested to power his machines, and the beautiful mechanical perfection they ultimately became a part of. As he built his empire on the backs of these small animals, so the Doctor’s throne now rested high over the backs of these birds. The interior of the tunnel was completely smooth and free of footholds, running straight upwards for more than a hundred meters.
The swallows served as another portend- accessing the control room required flight, something his pursuer was not capable of.
Arriving under the entrance way, he flicked off the burning thrusters and increased the hovering force to propel the Eggmobile up, ascending through the tunnel into the darkness.
By this time the emptying of Metropolis was nearly complete. The last cargo was being secured aboard the Egg Liner, and robots scurried up and down the railways in preparation for departure. Elsewhere, stillness pervaded the city; beyond a few token guard units hovering in the shadows, all activity had come to a stand still. The once shimmering mass of animated machinery had become silent and lightless.
For a person watching from the cliffs above, it would appear the jungle was creeping in and consuming the steel citadel. As the lights were extinguished, the bulk of the city began to fade from view, becoming lost in the shade of mountains. The sun was starting to set and the glow of the skyline seemed to retreat with it. The shadows crawled up the Final Egg slowly, lights flickering out one by one, until just a single shining star graced the top of the tower.
The mighty tower became as a giant candle rising out of the valley, burning with the last light of Metropolis, a light towards which its architect now raced.
The command center was just a small portion of the top level of the fortress, though it was also the most vital. Lit by the glow of over twenty monitor screen, each displaying data readouts for incalculable minutia pertaining to the Empire’s forces. The monitors are arranged in a semicircle on the south end of the room, ten flanking either side of a colossal holographic projection detailing the entire complex, the master of the castle’s very own magic mirror to behold all that happened in his domain. The other side of the room was taken up by a tall, semicircular console, encompassing an imposing black throne, just as showy as the captain’s chairs aboard their flying fortresses. Predictably, the seat’s decor took inspiration from its creator’s face, so the person sitting in it would appear to be within the mustached madman’s maw, teeth and a long nose forming an awning over their head. The garish throne was silhouetted against the afternoon sun by three windows that spanned from roof to floor, painting the walls in orange.
At the moment the Eggmobile came to a stop the Doctor scrambled out, sprinting towards the console, his coat tails dancing at his back. He sank into the black material of the command chair before attacking the keyboard with a furious pace. The facsimile Final Egg within the holographic display broke down and was reassembled as a wide rectangle over which text began to scroll.
'Ah, yes....’ the Doctor thought. 'Just one more thing to take care of before I clean up here...’
Within the hologram an empty bar appeared, which rapidly began to fill with red as a number beside a percent sign started counting up from zero. The most significant and irreplaceable data had to be copied before the master computer could be flushed. If the things recorded here were lost, there would be no chance of ever getting them back. He wanted to handle this data personally- there were too many risks involved in placing it in the care of one of his underlings.
The bar reached its fill and the counter reached 100%. Out of the console popped a small featureless disk, which the Doctor snatched up gleefully. He held it up to the light, watching the rainbow reflected in its sides. In his hands he was holding every shred of information he had obtained on the God of Destruction. Scans revealing Chaos’s molecular structure, neurological activity, and energy interactions at each stage of his transformation, and much more.
He pocketed the disk and went back to typing on the console.
“Excellent! Now, to erase all this data so there will be no trail of bread crumbs for anyone to follow!”
“Gee, I dunno Eggman, you think anybody could actually make sense of this stuff? All looks pretty meaningless to me.”
Uncomprehending, the Doctor slowly turned towards the origin of the voice, jaw hanging open.
There, reclining in the cockpit of the Eggmobile as if he were getting cozy in a beach chair on the pool-side, was the hedgehog once again. Sonic looked around the control room lazily, not bothering to make eye contact with the Doctor, eventually settling his gaze on the multitude of monitors above him. The disposal process was already underway and they were beginning to go blank one at a time.
“Well, all except for the one there,” he said, eyeing the screen reporting the figures for the organic batteries being transported. Sonic etched it into his brain before it was deleted. “I understand that one perfectly, doc.”
“You clung to the back!” the scientist concluded, rising from his throne. “Just like back in the Labyrinth all those years ago, riding along to escape the pouring water!”
Sonic spared a genuine grin, also getting to his feet and leaping down from the Eggmobile.
“Aww, come on now doctor, forward thinking guys like us shouldn’t be dwelling on the past.” he admonished, walking around the deactivated hologram projector. “We should be looking towards the future. Tell me what you see in your future. Through the iron bars, that is.”
The Doctor punched a few more buttons before regarding Sonic evenly across the console separating them.
“Now where did this sudden urge to see me in prison come from? You have rarely expressed much concern over apprehending me in prior altercations. Just a few hours ago you were content to sabotage my plans and let me limp away in a burning hoverpod.”
The hedgehog’s expression grew serious again, green eyes narrowing.
“This isn’t about you and me, Eggman. This is about what happened to Station Square. Those people deserve justice. You’re the one responsible for what happened to them, you have to answer for the things they suffered.”
“Oh please,” the Doctor sneered, slipping behind the command chair. “I know you better than that. This is hardly about something as noble as justice. You were always happy to play our little game, whatever the number of lives at stake or freedoms threatened. I got to have my fun coming up with ways to rule the world and you got to have your fun keeping me from doing it, testing your skills. But now the game’s gotten too ugly for you, hasn’t it? You thought because you were the hero that no one was ever going to get hurt, and now that enough people finally have you’re scared to keep playing!”
Sonic clenched his fists at his sides, looking away from the human, staring at the floor.
“I always knew I could keep you contained.” he said, eyes sliding shut. “That me and Tails could always stop you from getting out of control. Even today.... even today we proved I was right. It is just that neither you or I could have been prepared for how dangerous Chaos ultimately was, even after you were defeated.”
“You can’t hide the truth from me, Sonic.” the Doctor replied, taking a few steps further away and folding his hands behind his back. “There is only one reason why we are standing here right now: because you failed to stop Chaos from reaching his full potential. And you can’t live with knowing that.”
“Don’t try to act like you can wash your hands of it, Eggman!” Sonic spat in anger. “You freed Chaos, you tried to destroy Station Square, and you will answer for the crimes you have committed!”
He opened his eyes, glaring up at his nemesis with steeled resolve.
“And there is nothing you can do to get away from me.”
Yet then the Doctor smirked, taking one last step backwards.
“I’m afraid that’s where you’re wrong, boy.” he replied as multicolored light rose and fell around his red and black clad form. “However fast you are, I will still always outrun you.”
Sonic’s eyes went wide in recognition.
Without a second thought he lunged at the human, teeth bared in a vicious snarl, jumping clear over the console with the intent to seize him in gloved hands. He grasped only air as the Doctor vanished, leaving Sonic to slam against the transporter pad below -identical to the one on the Egg Carrier- with a hard thud.
At that moment the last light in Metropolis went out, like a candle.
Sonic paced the room, the glass scattered when he beat the useless transporter pad in frustration crunching under his feet. The conversation he just had was racing through his head. He couldn’t allow this expedition to become a waste of time. There had to be a way to track down the Eggman.
He looked out one of the over sized windows, the only source of illumination in the room now.
Far below he could just make out one of the rail roads leading out of the city. A train was moving down it now, heading westward.
The number of small animals he was sure were trapped aboard that train now was still burning in his skull. He knew something needed to be done for them. Following the rail road was also his best option for hunting down Eggman again.
The Doctor’s words seemed to echo in the dark. Goading him to give up. Telling him it was his fault.
He looked toward the train again. It was still in view.
Failing to stop Chaos from reaching his perfect form weighed heavy on his mind, but he couldn’t afford to let it become fuel for Eggman’s mind games.
If there was time to worry about the past, then there was that much more time to run.
I WILL BE AN ADMINISTRATOR, RULING OVER CHAO ISLAND
except it WON'T BE CHAO ISLAND ANYMORE
IT'LL BE BANANA ISLAnD