Hold On by Skyblaze

Chapter 14 – High Hopes

Chapter 14 – High Hopes


It was safe to say that Sonic wasn’t often involved in combat against other organic Mobians. He had refined his battle skills against robots, big lumbering hunks of metal who moved deliberately, but powerfully. No expressions, no emotions, just computer chips humming away inside those big, dome-shaped heads of theirs.

Thankfully, he had spent a lot of time practicing hand-to-hand combat against Sally and Bunnie, assisting them in honing their skills, so he did at least know to look for those minute changes in expression and posture that warned of the forthcoming attack.


Even so, it was only his lightning reflexes that saved him from ending up with those spiked fists lodged somewhere in his abdomen. Sonic felt the rush of air whip through his quills as Knuckles shot past him, close enough that he felt those dangerous fists brush against his fur.


Smoothly sidestepping, he quickly revved up and set off after the echidna, Shadow close on his heels. They moved further into the jungle, Knuckles apparently knowing exactly where to go to push his way though the dense vegetation, where the two hedgehogs were forced to rely on spin-dashes in order to follow, meaning the echidna could build up a decent lead on them.


The jungle opened out into a small clearing ringed with impossibly tall trees. Knuckles stood in the middle of it, a smug look on his face, his feet planted firmly and his arms folded in a deceptively casual pose.


Sonic wasn’t quite stupid enough to fall into that obvious trap, instead jumping sideways, seeing that the echidna’s violet eyes were firmly locked on him, ignoring the black hedgehog quietly skating into a flanking position. Sonic feinted right, aiming a right-hand jab squarely at the echidna’s ribs. As Sonic had more or less expected, Knuckles blocked, those oversized fists as impenetrable as any wall.

Quicker than the eye could see, Sonic dropped down, ducked under the blocking fist and brought his foot up into a powerful back-kick that struck with a very satisfying impact against the echidna’s head. Almost immediately, Sonic felt a shock of pain go up his leg as his foot hit something almost as hard and unyielding as stone. The shock was such that he almost didn’t see Knuckles turn and begin his counter until too late.


Reacting on pure instinct, Sonic leapt backwards, a flash of pain shooting up his leg as his apparently bruised foot met the floor. His eyes flickered over to seek out Shadow, noting that the black hedgehog was sporting a look of concern, but whether it was for him personally or their situation, he wasn’t sure. He nodded to Shadow to indicate that he was still all right, but then saw Knuckles smirk as he too spotted Shadow’s careful advance. The echidna whipped around, and dived forward, his spiked dreadlocks flaring out to catch the air, seeming to lift him into the air.

To anyone else, the move would have been sudden, swift and almost out of nowhere, but to people like Sonic and Shadow, it might as well have been in slow-motion.

Shadow pivoted on one foot and spun around delivering a perfect roundhouse kick to Knuckles’ face as it came sailing towards him, sending the echidna flying on a different trajectory – right towards Sonic.


Just as a hedgehog would, Knuckles curled up into a ball, forcing Sonic to take a step back and allowing the echidna to land. As soon as the metal-soled shoes touched the earth, Knuckles attacked again, launching a rapid series of punches towards Sonic. Sonic dodged and weaved, neatly avoiding every jab and launching his own swift attacks when possible. Shadow skated in, seeing that Sonic had the echidna’s full attention, Shadow wound up to deliver a punch of his own – one that would hopefully knock some sense into the overprotective guardian.


Shadow launched his attack, aiming for the small spot just behind the ear that he knew was likely to knock the echidna cold. But, whether it was by Knuckles’ fighting skill or just plain dumb luck, just at the instant Shadow’s punch should have connected, Knuckles chose to duck out of the way – sending Shadow’s attack straight towards Sonic’s unprotected face. Shadow only just barely managed to pull his blow enough not to break Sonic’s nose, but he still felt the judder of impact go up his arm, and his heart constricted as he prayed he hadn’t done any serious damage.


Shadow felt a vice-like grip suddenly grab his arm, pulling him off balance and sending him stumbling right into Sonic, sending them both crashing to the ground.


“You two are both pathetic!” The echidna said mockingly, “A baby flicky bird would be more of a challenge.”


Shadow could almost feel Sonic’s anger flaring up as they both untangled themselves and got to their feet, their limbs tangled together in a way that would have been almost sensual under other circumstances. His own temper was struggling to break free, but he took a deep breath and kept it under wraps – a lot of his ire was directed at himself for underestimating this Guardian, and in so doing, allowing Sonic to get hurt.


In less than an instant, both hedgehogs were back on their feet, turning just in time to see the red echidna gab hold of a tree branch, swing up into it and vanish into the dense vegetation. Shadow growled, again struggling to get him rage under control and skated over to get into a more open area, but Sonic revved his legs and shot up the tree after the echidna.


“Sonic!” Shadow called in alarm, “Don’t!” He swore under his breath when the blue hedgehog refused to listen. This was Knuckles’ home turf, he knew every inch of it – and Shadow remembered the Doctor telling him that the entire island was littered with traps – and only the Guardian knew where they all were. He looked up, frantically trying to locate that flash of blue amidst the foliage, his chaos sense useless this close to the blinding power of the Master Emerald. He felt the loss of Sonic’s presence keenly as the cold echoes of the Master blotted out the familiar bright blue flame.

His fears were confirmed when Sonic was batted out of a tree to his right, coming to land in a graceless heap in the knee-high undergrowth. Thankfully, Sonic didn’t seem to be badly hurt and quickly got to his feet again, Shadow felt a strange lurch in his chest, realising that he had been holding his breath for those moments as he saw Sonic flying through the air.


His heart still pounding, Shadow moved, circling around the clearing they found themselves in, looking up into the canopy of trees to try and see where the next attack was coming from. He had to end this quickly – Sonic was already a mass of bruises, the blue hedgehog couldn’t take much more punishment like this. The best thing was to attract the echidna’s attention and take the beating himself – he was better built to take a serious pounding than Sonic, after all.


“Where are you?” He muttered. Then he heard mocking laughter from behind him, he spun around in time to see Knuckles leap off the branch he was standing on. At first, Shadow readied himself to block or dodge the incoming blow, before realising that the echidna wasn’t aiming for him or for Sonic.


Knuckles hit the ground fist-first, digging efficiently into the earth at incredible speed. At this stage, Shadow’s curses were not muttered as he blistered the air around them with words that could make strong men turn pale. Damn this echidna anyway – a fight was not what he wanted!


He moved in a rapid zig-zag pattern, hoping the echidna would have trouble pinpointing him, seeing Sonic pick up on what he was doing and try the same, their eyes scanning the ground.


The ground in front of Shadow’s feet suddenly exploded into a blur of red and white as a very large fist caught him under the chin, knocking him back at least three feet and sending his entire world reeling, white light flickering behind his eyes. The Echidna hit like a freight train! Even in his training battles against the Doctor’s robots he had never been hit that hard!


Through blurred eyes and the ringing in his ears he saw Knuckles laugh again as Sonic called his name and ran towards Knuckles, fury in his emerald eyes.


Wait… weren’t Sonic’s eyes meant to be black here?


Knuckles raised one foot and stamped down hard on a stone that was partially inset into the ground. The ground underneath Sonic’s charging feet vanished, and with a startled, angry cry, Sonic vanished into the dark pit that had just appeared beneath him.


Rage suddenly rushed through Shadow’s veins, and he pulled himself insistently to his feet, ignoring the screaming pain in his head and jaw, his eyes narrowing as he glared at the smirking form of Knuckles the Echidna. He clenched his fists, trying to draw on the power of Chaos floating in the air, only to find that it seemed strangely reluctant to follow his commands. A strange, sick feeling settled in Shadow’s stomach as the cold feeling he had felt earlier again seemed to race through his veins. Knuckles turned, violet eyes settling on him, a feral light gleaming in them. Shadow settled into a fighting stance and braced himself.

Something was very wrong, here.


Sonic, meanwhile, was clawing at the sides of the deep, smooth-sided pit he was stuck in. It was about ten feet deep, lined with a smooth, damp stone. The stones were joined closely together, leaving no hand holds, so he couldn’t climb out and there wasn’t enough room down here to build up momentum, so he couldn’t run out either. He could feel every bruise developing on his slightly battered body and knew for a fact that he was sure gonna feel them tomorrow – if he survived that long.

It had gotten strangely quiet up top; there were no further sounds of fighting. Horrid visions of what could have happened to Shadow flashed rapidly through his mind; though he knew how strong Shadow was, he had felt how hard the echidna hit, and had seen the strength of the blow Shadow had taken.


“No,” He whispered, pounding on the walls of the pit. He reached out with the cord of his chaos-sense, locking onto the flickering red glow of Shadow’s presence. Energy built up in him and he tensed, pulling on the cord he had looped around his friend, “Chaos Control!” He cried. And vanished.


Knuckles was closing in to deliver a crushing blow, Shadow could see it through his blurry vision, and was trying to persuade his sluggish muscles to let him move, to block or dodge when all of a sudden it became unnecessary.


The air in front of Shadow suddenly glowed with blue-gold light and Sonic was there, feet set and arms raised, his gaze intent, determined as he stood in an unmistakable protective stance in front of Shadow.


Upon seeing this, the echidna’s eyes had suddenly gone wide. He skidded to a halt, just about managing to pull himself out of his attack before he struck, and his fists mere inches from Sonic.


The echidna took a few steps back, dropping completely out of any kind of offensive pose and shaking his head in apparent disbelief.


“You have got to be kidding me.” Knuckles growled, “A damn surface-crawling hedgehog, of all things…” he spat.


Sonic narrowed his eyes, “Dude, what are you talking about?”


Knuckles glared at him, “You’ve been blessed by Chaos.”


Sonic blinked, “huh?”


Shadow, who was slowly regaining his equilibrium, felt like he had just taken another blow to the head. He shook his head rapidly to clear it, feeling the violent dizziness subside into a dull, thudding pain in his jaw and temples. “If you mean that we have some access to Chaos powers, then yes, we both do.” Shadow said slowly, “But why have you stopped attacking us?”


The echidna’s laser-like glare bored into him, “I don’t expect a surface-crawler like you to understand,” He said contemptuously, causing Shadow to narrow his eyes dangerously, “But I am the Guardian of the Master Emerald and the secrets of Chaos. If you have access to the powers of Chaos, that means the gods and the Emeralds have blessed you, which puts a certain obligation on me.”


Drifting through the trees there came a peculiar, whirling, humming sound like the noise a very small helicopter would make. The noise was joined moments later by the sight of Tails weaving through the trees; Sally gripped tightly in his hands.


“Hey lil bro, Sal – took you guys long enough to catch up.” Sonic said with a casual wave.


“Not everyone is as fast as you are, Sonic.” Sally said acidly as Tails set her down. Shadow blinked, realising that the entire battle had taken less than three minutes but they had still moved pretty deeply into the jungle.


Knuckles gave only the briefest of glances to Sally and Tails, his attention focussed on Shadow and Sonic. “Well?” he demanded, “You came to my island for a reason – out with it.”


“What’s this?” Sally asked curiously.


“Far as I can tell, Sal - ‘cos me an’ Stripes have got chaos powers, he’s gotta do as we say.” Sonic replied, absently rubbing at his bruised muzzle.


The echidna scowled blackly, “Not exactly, hedgehog. I’m bound by the Guardian’s code to grant you one request if it’s in my power. After that, I’m under no further obligation to you.”


They all considered that, but it was Shadow who spoke, “Can you tell us where the Chaos Emeralds are?”


Knuckles raised an eye-ridge, "That's all you want?"


The three Freedom Fighters and Shadow exchanged a slow look, mischief was clear in Sonic's gaze, but Sally just nodded slowly.


"Yes." Shadow confirmed.


"Very well. Follow me." Knuckles said, turning and walking off into the jungle.


"Oh man, you could have at least told him to stand on his head or something!" Sonic protested. Sally's response was a stern glare at the blue speedster, but Shadow was glad he was walking in front, since he couldn't quite suppress the tiny grin that tugged at the corners of his mouth.



Miles away, under the dark gloom of a permanent pollution cloud, a heavily-guarded area of Robotropolis was a hive of activity. The city never really slept since robots needed no rest, just energy and the occasional maintenance. Even so, it was rare that the many factories and forges were running full-tilt as they were now.


The lord of the Machine City sat in his private suite of rooms, a spread of monitors in front of him as he reclined in a very large chair. An expensive bottle of wine sat half-forgotten by his side alongside the remains of his lunch as he poured over his late Grandfather's notes, his eyes intent on the screen.


To his right was a monitor with a series of figures detailing the oil extraction and refining in progress at the Oil Ocean Refinery. He scowled at the screen. Even though the refinery was working at full capacity, projections for Rocket Fuel production were below what he had hoped for. At the current rate, it would take almost three months to produce enough fuel to get his new rocket shuttle up to his Grandfather’s space station and back down again. His fist clenched. Not good enough.


He glanced to his left, where another monitor showed the rate of progress of the rocket ship construction, complete with wire-frame diagram displaying what area was currently being assembled – at least that particular project was proceeding satisfactorily.


His moustache bristled in irritation. It was the power source that was the problem. It was taking far too long to produce enough fuel, and nothing else he was aware of could generate enough energy to propel a rocket out of the planet’s gravity well.


With a growl, he turned his attention back to the notes on the main screen, and his eyes settled upon an entry he hadn’t spotted before, a fairly large file labelled ‘Alternative Power’.

Opening the file, he discovered it contained reams of notes on some invention his Grandfather had dubbed ‘Chaos Drives’ – small tube-like objects containing a significant amount of power. The file contained the specs needed to produce the devices. He read them eagerly; absorbing the information like parched earth soaks up water. He was mildly disappointed to learn that the devices produced completely clean energy with very little residue, waste products or pollution produced during either their manufacture of operation.

Still, nothing was perfect, and if the information here was correct, they were relatively easy to manufacture and a big enough network of them would make a perfect power source for his rocket.


Smirking, he silently thanked his Grandfather for his providence, providing him with the very thing that would set him on the road to a true and complete rule of this miserable little planet. It was almost enough to make him wonder if the ancient Echidnas with their ancestor worship had been correct in some way – almost.


He was just about to turn back to the monitor detailing the work on the rocket ship when something else caught his eye. Buried amid the various long, dreary notes about Chaos Energy theory was a mention of something called ‘Chaos Emeralds’. The words sparked a long-dormant memory in him and he quickly scrolled through the notes, looking for another mention. Apparently Gerald Robotnik had been attempting to duplicate the properties of the mysterious gem stones when he created the Chaos Drives – he had even managed to locate an Emerald to study. The very end of the document contained a very detailed description of all his recordings of the properties of this Chaos Emerald.


Almost absently, Robotnik’s fingers drifted over his keyboard, inputting the details into his computer database and sending them out to all scout robots and his outlying facilities, instructing his robots that if anything matching the Emerald’s description should be found, it should be brought to the nearest secure facility straight away for observation and experimentation. The last thing he wanted was for that filthy blue rodent or his friends to get hold of an object of that sort of power – those damned power rings were enough.


Turning his attention back to the rocket, he began making modifications to the engine and power distribution systems to accept the Chaos Drives even as he sent instructions for manufacture of the devices to begin immediately.


Not too long later, a small chime sounded on the other console and he glanced at it, irritated at the interruption, but his irritation was swept away when he realised it was a message from his observation post out in the Great Unknown. His robots were reporting having found a gemstone matching the properties of the Chaos Emerald, and had obediently taken it to the secure laboratory to await his attention.


He smiled thinly; fate was clearly on his side. A shame he would be too busy with supervising the word on his rocket and construction of the Chaos Drives to inspect the stone straight away, but there would be time enough later, after he had visited Space Colony ARK and put into motion his new plan for total domination.


His smile slowly turned into a dark chuckle.


Those vermin in the forest would never know what hit them.


To be Continued in Chapter 15 – This Corrosion

Chapter end notes:
Thanks again to Taranea and Greyfore for assistance this chapter.

Also, as a shameless plug, Taranea and I have a new Sonic fanfic that we have co-written together. It's called 'Advent of Equinox' and you can find it on this site on my profile, or there is a gen version on Taranea's profile on
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