Hold On by Skyblaze

Chapter notes:
Thanks again to Greyfore for helping me out with Shadow's dialogue in this chapter. And thanks to all my reviewers for their encouragement, with special thanks to Taranea for your lovely comments.
Chapter Ten - True Reflections

Chapter Ten - True Reflections


Fly by night

Created out of fantasy

Our destinations call


The air was cold and frosty, the early morning breeze carrying with it the icy bite of the arctic as it swept down across the vast, empty expanse of the Great Unknown to sweep across the Forest and the tiny village it sheltered.

It was almost dawn, the faint red-orange light spilled across the horizon the paint the village in shades of flame.


Shadow waited outside the hut he was currently sharing with Tails, casually doing a series of warm-ups and stretches as he waited for Sally and Bunnie to join him, looking far calmer and patient that he really felt. He had spent the scant couple of hours of rest he had been allowed before the mission tossing and turning. When he had managed to drift into a shallow sleep, his dreams were haunted by images of his past.

He had, at one point, dreamed of the ARK and the fight against the Biolizard. The memory playing out with crystal clarity; only this time, it had been Sonic who had begun to fall into the deadly embrace of the atmosphere. There had been no Chaos Control to save Sonic, and Shadow had been unable to reach him, only able to watch despairingly, one hand outstretched as the Hero of Mobius began to burn up, his eyes full of both satisfaction and regret, a faint smile on his face as the halo of fire surrounded him in its violent, deadly hold.

Shadow had awoken shaking and sweating from the sickeningly realistic images his subconscious had presented, only just able to stifle the shout of denial that would have woken his current roommate.

He had given up on sleep at that point.


"Well ain't you up with the birds there, sugar?" The mellow, accented voice of Bunnie, the partially robotic rabbit greeted him as he rose from a long leg-stretch.


Shadow shrugged, "I don't need much sleep." He replied. It was true enough. His body required little rest and could go for days without needing food, since he was perfectly capable of living off the ambient Chaos Energy in the air.


The rabbit shrugged, "Okay, sugar. Mornin' Sally-girl." She added as the third member of their impromptu raiding party arrived. She had a rough backpack on, her eyes fierce and determined.


"Morning, Bunnie," The princess greeted her friend, "Shadow," She said curtly, he nodded shortly in reply. Sally took a breath, "You both ready?"


"Yes." Shadow said.


"Sure am, Sally-girl." Bonnie replied.


"Then let's get to it. Shadow, it's your job to get us in to Robotropolis. Then we split up. Bunnie and I will cause as much of a distraction as we can while you find Sir Charles and get him out of the city. After you've got Chuck you can't let yourself be seen by any of Robotnik's surveillance - that's absolutely crucial."


"I understand." Shadow said shortly, back straight, arms folded across his chest in his most guarded pose.


"Bunnie and I will create as much of a distraction as we can while you go grab Chuck. You'll only have fifteen minutes at the maximum. When we're done, we'll bolt of the rendezvous point. We won't be able to wait for you, so try not to get lost of distracted."


Shadow tried to not to flatten his ears and narrow his eyes at this suggestion of incompetence. Trying to remind himself that these people had no idea of his true skills and abilities.


"Right, then lets go." The squirrel and the rabbit took a position either side of him. With a faint sigh, he held out his arms, feeling them both take a firm grip. They were apparently both familiar with travelling along with Sonic, so he wasn't worried about them losing their grip when he started to hit super-sonic speed.



The word, the name. They seemed to haunt him. He shivered, trying to banish the remaining images of Sonic falling into his fiery death from his mind. But when he succeeded, they were instantly replaced with an image of the Sonic from this world, lying still and pale on the bed, his chaos energy slowly draining away like blood from an open wound.


'No…' he thought, 'I won't let that happen.' Shadow concentrated, letting the chaos power in his body pool into his feet, feeling his hover shoes ignite and begin to drive him forward. He heard Sally gasp as he shot forward, skating smoothly across the landscape, getting faster and faster, the green-brown shapes of trees blurring past. The added bulk of his two 'passengers' made it harder to manoeuvre, but he adjusted, pouring on more chaos energy to maintain the delicate balancing act.


The trees started to thin out, giving way to low shrubs and hardy grasses as they ran out into the open plain that surrounded the city of Robotropolis. As he crossed some unseen border, the landscape seemed to change; the plants became wilted and brittle - like grey and brown shadows of what they ought to be. The texture of the earth beneath his feet also altered, feeling cold and leaden as he skimmed across it. Then there was the smell - the reek of petrol, crude oil, coolant fluid, ozone and ammonia lay across the open plain like a miasma, becoming almost overpowering as they began to get close to the border of the city itself.


'Poison…' Shadow thought, 'This city is pure poison.' He skidded to a halt behind a low outcropping of rock next to the high metal walls surrounding the city. He released his two passengers and looked around at the blighted landscape. It really did look like some giant parasite had come down and sucked all the life out of the entire area.

He peered over the rock to have a proper look at the city. The wall towered above them a good thirty feet high, covered in a dull, ugly metal that was dented and pitted with rust. He couldn't see properly into the city proper, but he could hear the heavy clank of robot footsteps and the grinding and hissing of heavy industry. Apart from those two sounds, the city was practically silent, which was probably the creepiest thing he had encountered so far.

Pushing back from the rock, he found that where his fingers had been resting on it his white gloves were stained with an oily brown substance. He grimaced in revulsion as he tried unsuccessfully to wipe it off.


Sally was crouched down, her little hand-held computer pointed towards the poisoned city of metal, apparently scanning while Bunnie stood to the opposite side, acting as lookout.

Silently, the princess gestured towards one small access port low in the wall.


Slipping over to crouch in the shadow of the wall, they waited for a tense moment while Bunnie took hold of the edge of the hatch with her robotic hand and levered it open with a 'clunk'. The rabbit made an 'after you' gesture and Shadow dropped to his hands and knees to follow Sally through the dark, slightly damp tunnel.


The reek was even worse here, cloyingly thick, almost choking him in its intensity. Neither Sally nor Bunnie seemed to notice the smell, apparently used to it. Shadow struggled not to gag as he crawled along behind Sally, determined not to show any weakness. The tunnel opened up into a wide area with two tunnels branching horizontally and one vertically. The bottom of the shaft was lined with a couple of inches of stagnant water. Shadow concluded that this was a cistern of some sort, perhaps once connected to the municipal water supply back when this had been a real city and not some ghoulish factory disguised as a city.


Against, Sally silently gestured, this time pointing at the rusty metal rungs embedded in the side of the shaft leading up. Shadow nodded and jumped up, climbing smoothly and gingerly pushing up the cover at the top of the shaft, careful to make as little noise as possible. They emerged into an alleyway just off what appeared to be a fairly major thoroughfare. Heavy robots equipped with tank-treads supporting industrial equipment ponderously rolled past, accompanied by smaller, cylindrical units that hovered like monstrous metallic bumblebees and large, bulbous robots that resembled headless, crouching frogs that rumbled by on a hiss of gravity repulsors.


"This is where we split up," Sally said in a low voice, "You remember where you're going?" Shadow nodded, "Then good luck." Sally said. Then she and Bunnie dived around the corner and vanished into the twisting maze of the city.


Recalling the map, Shadow ghosted to the back of the alley and vaulted easily over the wall, landing in a side-street. Crimson eyes narrowed as he checked for cameras and other surveillance but found nothing. Carefully gathering his energy once again, he set off, skating down the uneven metal-paved streets towards his goal.


The Robotnik of this world had to be truly twisted to have done all this. The Doctor of his world had certainly had an obsession with technology, covering every inch of any area he occupied in smooth metal, constantly tinkering with his machines, ill at ease unless he was pushing buttons or staring at a computer screen. But all of his bases had been clean, bright, gleaming and the technology he invented smooth and shiny. The industrial smell had been there, of course, but never so overwhelming, so virulent and sickening.

This city had been a living place, once, a place where ordinary Mobians had lived and worked and played… and that meant that the changes to the city had not just happened, but were deliberately invoked by its demented new ruler. The tyrant of metal and oil determined to mould it into a cold reflection of his own psyche.


Shadow shivered, despite the warmth of the city around him.


From the other side of the city, Shadow heard the sound of a detonation, followed by another. He smirked as the sound rumbled through the ground. Alarms were blaring and he could faintly hear the muffled buzz of laser fire.


Confident that Sally and he associate could look after themselves, Shadow rounded one last corner and found himself in what looked like a junkyard. Piles of scrap metal and discarded electronics components lay discretely rusting in the out-of-the-way lot far from the main part of the city.


Creeping cautiously through the junk-piles, he reached one specific place and tapped a rhythmic sequence on an old pipe.

After a moment, Shadow watched curiously as a hidden panel under one of the junk-piles hummed open.

Slipping inside, he winced as he stepped into sudden fluorescent brightness that reflected off a small metallic form that stood stiffly in the middle of the cramped little hidey-hole.


Shadow tensed when he saw the robot stood before him, but relaxed a fraction of an instant later when he realised the robot wasn't preparing to attack and this particular robot wore the form of a hedgehog.


"You must be Sir Charles Hedgehog," Shadow said as politely as he could manage, "Princess Sally sent me to find you."


Red pinpricks of light regarded him for a moment, looking strangely alive for prismatic LEDs. Shadow could almost read the curiosity in them.


"Project Shadow. I never thought I'd actually meet you." The robotic hedgehog said, its voice oddly rusty-sounding in a strange combination of age and the usual robotic buzz.

"What exactly is that supposed to mean?" Shadow challenged, eyes narrowing.

"Sonic told me that you say you're from another dimension." Chuck continued. The tone was almost conversational, except for the slight edge in his vaguely metallic voice.


"That's right." Shadow replied cautiously.


Chuck grunted, "Well, in this one, you died aboard the ARK fifty years ago. Everyone did, except Gerald Robotnik. Even his poor niece."

Shadow gritted his teeth, trying to clamp down on the sudden surge of rage and pain that washed through him, "She was his Granddaughter, not his niece." He growled.


The red lights of Chuck's eyes flared brighter, "Then the rumours were true - he developed you as a cure..."

"How and why I was created is none of your business." Shadow snarled defensively. He had only just begun to get a grip on his feelings about that incident fifty years ago. Why was this hedgehog persisting in stirring up sensitive memories?

The robot hedgehog leaned back and folded his arms thoughtfully, "You're here about Sonic, aren't you?"

Thrown by this sudden alteration in the direction of the conversation, Shadow paused, "Yes..." he replied flatly.


Chuck nodded, "In that case, I'm afraid it is my business. I might need that information to help him."

Shadow's eyes narrowed again, "You aren't making any sense. What has my history got to do with Sonic's current condition?"

Chucked sighed heavily and looked away. When he spoke again, his metallic-edged voice was filled with regret, "Well, you see... Sonic's almost as much of an experiment as you are."




Chuck looked at him again, his expression almost unreadable through the metal mask that was his face, "It would take awhile to explain and I'd like to check on Sonic as soon as possible, so mind if I explain on the way? It's quite a distance to Knothole."


Once again, Shadow gritted his teeth in irritation, "Fine. But your explanation better be pretty good." Shadow looked around the tiny listening post, "Is this room energy shielded?"


Chuck looked as baffled as a robot can look, "Yes. Why?"


Shadow nodded, "Good." He took Chuck's arm, gathered his power and spoke:


"Chaos Control!"


To Be Continued in Chapter 11 - Duality

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