Hold On by Skyblaze

Chapter Eleven - Duality

Chapter Eleven - Duality


You can fool yourself
You can cheat until you're blind
You can cut your heart
It can happen


With a flare of golden light, Shadow and Sir Charles appeared on the outskirts of Robotropolis, quite close to the old cistern that Shadow, Sally and Bunnie had used to gain entrance to the city.

When the light faded, Shadow staggered, catching himself against one metal wall and breathing hard. His muscles felt suddenly sore, burning with fatigue. There was a void inside him that felt strangely like hunger where his chaos power ought to be. 'I shouldn't have attempted that without an emerald,' he thought, 'It was too far a distance. Line-of-sight jumps only from now on.'


"Are you all right?" Charles asked, to his credit, there was genuine concern in his rusty-sounding voice.


"Yes," Shadow replied, breathing deeply, "I just pushed myself a little too hard. I will be fine."


Scarlet LEDs met garnet-red eyes for a moment, and though Shadow still had difficulty judging the expressions of a robot, he thought he saw a strange speculative expression in those prismatic eyes.


"I never thought I'd actually see that power in person." Charles confessed in an oddly subdued tone.


Shadow gave him a sharp look, and realisation dawned in his mind, "You mean you hoped you wouldn't." He said, eyes narrowing slightly, "Sonic-"


"Not here!" Chuck hissed urgently, cutting him off, "In this city, the walls have ears. I promise that I'll explain when we get to Knothole, but we need to leave, now."


Shadow flattened his ears, "Fine." Leaning over, he pulled open the heavy cistern cover and gestured, "After you." He said mockingly and they both descended the ladder into the darkness of the tunnels.


When they got outside the city, the temperature seemed to plummet without the heat from the factories and forges, but at least the air was breathable again.


"Are you ready?" Shadow asked after he had taken a couple of lungfuls of marginally cleaner air.


Charles nodded, so Shadow took a grip on the metal hedgehog and set off.


"Never thought I'd see anyone as fast as Sonic." Charles muttered in his ear.


"You still haven't," Shadow smirked, "I'm faster."


Charles laughed, "Don't let Sonic hear you say that!"


"He already knows," Shadow smiled, "We'll settle the matter eventually." He was rather looking forward to it, actually. No one had ever challenged him on level terms the way Sonic had.


The grey turned gradually into green as they entered the forest, the cool earthy scents of the forest washing away the stink of the blighted city. Shadow had never considered himself much of a nature-lover, lived most of his life on a space station, but here the forest was infinitely preferable to the alternative.


The two of them entered Knothole, sliding down the secret entranceway to land in an undignified heap in a pile of straw at the bottom.

Shadow got to his feet, stifling an annoyed growl as he saw Sir Charles merrily chuckling as he picked straw out of his metal quills. Since it was well past dawn by now, most of Knothole was up and about, and with the refugees from Westfold, there were plenty of people gathered to give Shadow the same stares he had been receiving since he arrived here. The looks ranged from mistrustful to speculative to awed - the latter mostly coming from the Westfold children he had rescued. Still he found he disliked the attention and wished Sonic were there to take the unwanted spotlight away from him - Sonic handled it much better than he did.


"Sonic's in the Infirmary." Shadow said shortly. Charles nodded and headed off that way. Shadow followed a moment later, hoping to escape all those stares.


Charles entered the hut, Shadow slipped in behind him and took up a position in a darkened corner where he hoped to escape notice for a while.


Tails was sat on a rough wooden chair at Sonic’s bedside, reading to the unconscious hedgehog from a paperback book with a faded picture of a medieval knight on the cover. The book was old and worn, showing signs of age in its cracked spine and dog-eared pages.


“Hello, Tails,” Charles greeted the kit as he stepped into the room, “Whatcha got there?”


“Oh, hey Uncle Chuck,” Tails smiled, looking up. “Oh this? It’s just a copy of ‘The Knight of the Wind’ that Sonic gave to me – he used it to teach me how to read.”


Shadow had to raise an eyebrow at that – the idea of Sonic having enough patience to teach the young kit how to read was a big surprise, but then, Sonic did have a fierce devotion to Tails.


Charles smiled, “I’m glad he found a good home for it. I used it to teach him how to read, too.”


Tails’ smile was like the sun coming up as he recognised that he was following in the footsteps of his big brother and hero.


As Charles wandered over to the bank of instruments to check on his nephews’ condition, Sally also walked in.


“Hello Uncle Chuck,” She smiled warmly at the metal hedgehog. Her eyes flickered over the rest of the room and unerringly settled on Shadow, “You got him back. Well done.” There seemed to be a fraction less hostility towards him in her voice and manner, now. Shadow didn’t react externally, but carefully suppressed any trace of a smile. It seemed he had passed some sort of test.


“So,” Sally asked, turning her full attention back to Charles, “How is he?”


“Right now, I’m not too sure, Sally.” He said as he took some tools and made a few adjustments to the instruments before repeating the tests, “I’ll know in a minute, though.” He peered at the readouts for a moment, then sighed, “I was afraid of that.”


“Of what?” Sally asked, worry tightening her voice.


“His reserve of chaos energy is badly depleted.”


“Chaos energy?” Sally said sharply, casting an indecipherable glance in Shadow’s direction.


“He’s learned how to use Chaos Control, hasn’t he?” Shadow asked softly.


Charles sighed and hung his head, “Yes…”


“What’s Chaos Control?” Sally asked, baffled.


“An ability to manipulate the fabric of space-time. It can enable instant teleportation or slow down time, depending on how it’s used.” Shadow explained calmly.


Sally stared at them both, her eyes wide. Then her eyes narrowed in thought, “That could be an extremely effective weapon against Robotnik, if used properly.” She said clinically.


Charles shook his head, “It’s too dangerous. Chaos energy is wild – unpredictable.”


“I can use it.” Shadow shrugged.


Charles gave him a pointed look, “You were literally designed for it by the only man to have ever successfully researched Chaos Power. Sonic’s ability to wield it is almost accidental. He’s drawing on raw power with no limits – it could easily drain him to death if he pushed too far.”


“Almost accidental?” Sally interrupted again, her crystal blue eyes fixed on Sir Charles’ face, “How almost is it? I didn’t think you knew where Sonic got his abilities from, but now it seems you’ve been keeping secrets.”


Charles sighed, a strange metal-edged sound like two gears grinding against one another, “Sonic was only six years old when the coup happened, Sally,” He said in an oddly pleading tone, “I would have explained when he was older, but I never got the chance.”


“And after you were freed from Robotnik’s control?” Sally asked sternly. Shadow watched with interest, feeling a little like a spectator at a tennis match.


Charles looked down at the floor, “I had hoped it would never become an issue. I couldn’t bear to face Sonic and tell him that I had lied to him all that time.”


Sally stared at him, her eyes unreadable, her posture rigid, “What is he, Charles?” She asked, her voice almost a whisper.


“He was… created, Sally,” Chuck replied just as quietly, “His DNA enhanced. I don’t know how much he can really do. I don’t think anyone alive does.”


Sally’s eyes went over to Shadow again, “But you know, don’t you?”


Shadow emerged from his dark corner to stand beside Sally at Sonic’s bedside, “Some, yes.” He admitted, “He has some of the same abilities I was created with.”


“Then you can teach him.” It definitely wasn’t a request. Shadow frowned, his eyes shifting down to look over Sonic’s still form. It seemed wrong somehow, to see him so still and silent. Sonic was all about motion and energy, no wonder he burned so brightly to Shadow’s Chaos Sense. Shadow found that his hand had drifted, almost of its own volition, to gently touch the cobalt fur that surrounded his quills.


“Yes,” The word came out before he could stop it, “I’ll help him however I can.” His voice sounded odd even to his own ears, strangely soft and tender.


“Thank you.” Sally said, her eyes gentle. Her gaze shifted back to glance at Charles, then back to Sonic, “Is Chaos Energy really all that dangerous?”


Shadow thought back to his first near-disastrous experiment with Chaos Control and repressed a shudder. Then there were the even more dangerous abilities like Chaos Blast and Chaos Spear, “It can be.” He replied a little stiffly. 


 “Then how do you cope with it?”


Shadow looked down at his hands to look at the shining gold rings clamped around his wrists and realised that his fingers were now tenderly stroking Sonic’s fur and quickly pulled his hand away as though he had been burned. Sally caught the movement and gave him an odd look, but refrained from comment.


“My creator gave me these restraining cuffs,” He replied, tapping the rings, “They control the flow of Chaos Energy in my body to ensure I never use too much of it at once.”


“Can I examine those at some point?” Charles asked in a subdued voice, “Sonic might need something similar.”


“Perhaps.” Shadow said cautiously.


Then Tails re-entered carrying a backpack containing several jangling gold rings, “I could only find four, Uncle Chuck,” Tails apologised, “Will that be enough?”


“We’ll see, Tails. It should be.” Charles replied, holding out his hands for the bag. He pulled out the rings and pressed them, one by one, into Sonic’s hand.


Bright golden light bathed the interior of the Infirmary for a few moments and as it faded, Shadow saw Sonic’s eyelids flicker open, and Shadow’s own eyes widened as he saw a brief emerald radiance flare in Sonic’s eyes for a moment that was too brief for Sally or Charles to see.


“Hey Stripes,” Sonic said with a watery smile.


“Hey.” Shadow replied, managing to just barely catch himself before he smiled back at the azure hedgehog.


Sonic’s gaze travelled over to where his Uncle was standing, “Hey Unc, how long was I out?”


“About eight hours.” Charles replied quietly.


Sonic’s eyes went wide, “Man, that’s a long time.” Quick as a flash, he sat up and swung his legs over so he could stand up. Sally and Charles looked like they were going to restrain him, but by the time they moved, Sonic was already on his feet, doing a series of basic stretches. Sonic grinned at him and this time, Shadow simply couldn’t resist returning that bright smile.


“Are you okay now, Sonic?” Tails asked, wide blue eyes peering up at him.


“Sure am, little bro,” Sonic grinned at the kit.


“Cool, we were all worried about you!” Tails said seriously.


Sonic pulled the fox into a brief hug, “Then why don’t you go tell the guy that I’m all better, now, huh?”


“Okay Sonic!” Tails acknowledged, dashing out back into Knothole. Sonic’s gaze swept the room again.


 “Hey, Shadow?” Sonic asked after a moment.


“How come you look so… weird?”


Shadow blinked, “Weird?”


“Kind of… brighter.”


Shadow almost laughed, “That would be how I seem to your Chaos Sense?”




“We need to talk, Sonny-boy.” Charles interrupted seriously. The sparklingly bright expression on Sonic’s face faded and he nodded after a moment.


“Okay, Uncle Chuck.” He murmured.


“If you could excuse us, Sally, Shadow?” Charles asked politely.


“Of course, Sir Charles,” Sally replied formally, nodding politely before heading out the door.


Shadow exchanged one last look with Sonic before he followed her out the door.




In the middle of the gloomy capital known as Robotropolis sat the brooding tower that contained the main centre of operations for the machine city.


It was here in this vaguely ovoid structure that Robotnik himself kept his control centre and personal residence. Like the other buildings in the city, it was made of dark, pitted metal. It was also entirely windowless. Even though daylight rarely managed to penetrate the thick cloud of smog surrounding the dead city, Robotnik preferred to avoid any trace of natural light, preferring the uniform glow of artificial lights inside his citadel.


Right now in the control centre at the very top of the egg-shaped building, Robotnik and his diminutive assistant, Snively, were reviewing the reports and footage of the earlier raid by the Knothole Freedom Fighters.


Across the entirety of one wall was spread six rows of flat-screen monitors, all replaying footage of the incursion, all displaying different views of the incident from the multitude of cameras spread about the city.


Robotnik watched with not a small amount of irritation as the incident played itself out for the third time. There was nothing unusual in the footage he had seen so far, it was all fairly standard hit-and-fade Freedom Fighter tactics, but something felt… off. There had been nothing or critical importance in the area they had hit, and nothing had been taken that they could discern. Also, most damingly, while there had been plenty of footage of the Princess and her half-roboticised rabbit friend, there had been no trace of that accursed rodent.

Which led to only one conclusion.


“A diversion.” Robotnik murmured to himself.


“Sir?” Snively asked, his nasal voice making even that single word sound like the whine of a hungry mosquito.


“Switch the camera view to sectors 6 through 12, same time frame.”


“Yes sir.” Snively responded, glancing at Robotnik curiously.


The footage played across the screens, replaying the same area of time, but showing the opposite half of the city.


“There!” Robotnik said triumphantly, hitting a control on the arm of his control chair and freezing an image on one of the screens.


“Snively, what is that?” Robotnik asked in his coldest, quietest voice.


Snively squinted at the screen, seeing nothing but irregular shadows. “Um…”


Robotnik tapped some more controls, tracing the area he was interested in, sharpening the edges and de-saturating the background of the image so it came into better focus.


Snively blinked, “Um… the hedgehog, sir?” He ventured, ever wary of his uncle’s violent temper.


Robotnik’s eyes narrowed, “Not unless that blasted rodent has developed an inordinate fondness for black hair dye.” He growled.


“Er… the sewers are very dirty, sir.” He said, quavering.


“Then what is this?” He said, highlighting a small streak of vivid red.


“Not… the hedgehog, sir?” Snively suggested tentatively.


“No.” The Machine Lord sat back on his chair, contemplating that image while Snively stood quaking, fearing the explosion that he was certain was to come, “Transfer the image to my personal workstation.” Robotnik ordered, rising from his chair.


“Yes sir!” Snively said, performing the task quickly, then sagging with relief as the rotund dictator left the control centre.


Entering his personal suite, Robotnik sat down in front of his elaborate workstation, calling up the image of that black hedgehog-shaped intruder, he recovered and sharpened the image as best he could, then ordered the system to do an archive search for any being matching the given parameters to within a 60% error margin.


This system was networked into every computer system in the entire country, and also contained information that he had personally purloined out of databanks all over Mobius. In short, it was the largest repository of data on the entire planet – and it was all his.


The screen flickered as it did its work, the cold, sadistic smile Robotnik was sporting reflecting in the polished surface of the monitor. Then, the flickering stop.




The screen display read. Eyes widening, he typed ‘Display Data’. The screen flickered again and in large letters the words ‘PROJECT: SHADOW’ were displayed along with ‘Restricted Access Level Alpha Two. Password Required’.


Glancing briefly as the meta data of the document, he realised with not a small amount of surprise that the document had been created by his Grandfather, Gerald Robotnik. To his even greater surprise it also contained some supplemental data inputted by his old fool of a father – Wilfred.


Well, that solved the problem of what password he needed as his meaty fingers typed in the name ‘Maria’.

The screen filled with technical and biological data that he skimmed over with mild interest until he came to a picture. It was a fairly poor-quality photo, apparently taken with a old-fashioned still film camera or a lab area containing a biological containment tube – and inside the tube was a being that bore more than a passing resemblance to the accursed blue hedgehog. Apparently this was the titular ‘Project Shadow’. From somewhere deep in his mind, a memory stirred and his metal fist clenched convulsively around the arm of his metal chair, crushing it like a tin can. No, a weapon like that could not be allowed to exist outside of his control. That was unacceptable.

He quickly saved the relevant data to a secure area for later perusal before moving on, he glanced over the section marked ‘Related Projects’. Then something caught his eye.


“Eclipse canon?” He muttered, feeling a strange swell of pleasure within the black depths of his metallic heart. He opened the document and almost fainted in pure bliss.


“Ooooooh, shiny.” He purred obscenely.


Up in the control room, Snively heard his uncle’s hideous laughter and shivered.


To Be Continued in Chapter 12 – After Images

You must login (register) to review.

Sonic and Shadow (c) and TM SEGA - Sonic Team

Sonadow Online