Hold On by Skyblaze

Chapter notes:
sorry for the long delay - but I'm back now, promise!
Chapter Four - Racing the Clouds Home

Chapter Four - Racing the Clouds Home

Justice to the left of you
Justice to the right
Speak when you are spoken to
Don't pretend you're right

Under other circumstances, the village could have been described as picturesque.

None of the streets were paved; they were instead merely paths of packed earth worn smooth by the repeated passage of Mobian feet. The huts were all constructed of wood, bamboo, thatch and other natural materials, making it blend effortlessly into the surrounding woodland.

Perfect natural camouflage for the rebellion, Shadow thought to himself. The Ultimate Lifeform took a deep breath, taking in a lungful of the forest air, heavy with the scents of trees, wildflowers, loamy earth and, faintly, the acrid tang of smoke. Even fainter, but still undeniably present, was the familiar bite of pollutants, rusting metal and hot machine oil - it seemed that some things did not change from Universe to Universe.

"Westfold Village is this way," Sonic was saying, pointing roughly in the direction Shadow has scented the smoke. The blue hedgehog's tone was strangely neutral, his eyes guarded as he held out an arm for Shadow to take so he could pull the other hedgehog along at Sonic's impressive high-speed.

Shadow glanced at the offered hand and smirked,

"I won't be needing that," He said. Sonic withdrew the hand and folded his arms, one foot tapping the ground idly, one eyebrow raised in half-amused contempt.

"Yeah right," Sonic rolled his eyes, "Like you can keep up with the fasting thing alive!"

Shadow's smirk grew bigger, and he casually dropped into a sprinter's starting pose,

"Try me," Shadow shot back with a sidelong glance at the blue hedgehog. Sonic's onyx eyes lit up at the challenge and he too dropped into a runner's crouch right beside Shadow.

"You're on, Stripes," Sonic replied with a grin. Shadow winced - though 'stripes' was an improvement on 'faker'...marginally.


Shadow's muscles tensed and he felt a hot taste in his mouth as adrenaline raced through his blood as everything around him snapped into sharp focus. He could feel Sonic's edgy presence beside him, could smell Sonic's unique scent, a combination of subtle musk, fresh-mown hay, and wind-blown leaves.

/You smell like the wind, Sonic/ Shadow thought, /I wonder if you know that.../


The two hedgehogs leapt forward, trees and land and sky blurring past, stirring up a dusty cyclone behind them as they blew out of Knothole village at speeds lightning couldn't catch.


Once they were out beyond Knothole and well into the Great Forest proper, Sonic risked a glance behind him, expecting to see the distant black dot of his erstwhile opponent.

He was somewhat shocked to discover the smirking black hedgehog still right on his tail, not four feet behind him. Sonic narrowed his eyes,

"Don't get too comfy, Stripes, I'm just cruisin' here," Sonic called, cockily.

"That's all right, Sonic," Shadow replied in a low, amused tone, "So am I."

/Oh, that does it!/ Sonic scowled as he poured it on, welcoming the rush of adrenaline and endorphins bringing him up to that most natural of highs as he slipped easily from subsonic into supersonic speeds, leaving the deafening sound of a sonic boom trailing behind him.

A few moments later, that first sonic boom was followed by a second.

"No way!" Sonic whispered, words snatched away by the wind. Despite himself, Sonic was impressed. No living thing had ever been able to match his speed before. A feral grin climbed up his face, this Shadow might be fast, but he was Sonic the Hedgehog, the fastest thing alive, there was no way this stripy wannabe was beat him!

Eyes alight with excitement and competitive spirit, Sonic bent himself into the wind, pulling together his strength with a joyful shout as he pumped his legs harder, feeling the wind catch his quills harder, roaring in his ears as the world shot past.

He would show Shadow just what he was made of.


The differences in their respective techniques were interesting. Sonic's legs were a mere blur, his feet hitting the ground so rapidly that it ceased to be a drumming noise, and became more like a low hum, becoming increasingly like the revving of a well-tuned engine when he stopped 'cruising' and started really running.

The quiet swoosh-swoosh of Shadow's jet shoes seemed almost feeble in comparison, but they still served to keep Shadow right as Sonic's back. Shadow's arms and legs swung back and forth, his posture identical to the Olympic speed-skaters as they shot across the ice.

Despite the assistance provided by the shoes, it still took immense concentration to maintain this kind of speed, a single mis-timed step and he would be sent crashing into the trees. He was at a disadvantage here, since this was uneven ground, and Sonic's home turf besides, but he was still determined to force the blue hedgehog to acknowledge him and his abilities.

He would show Sonic just what the Ultimate Lifeform was capable of.


The foul, acrid smell of smoke was very close, now, and underneath it was a stink of engine oil and the tang of industrial coolant fluid, scents Shadow remembered clearly from his time aboard the ARK.

Sonic glanced back to grin at him cockily, his eyes glittering -- those unfamiliar eyes in a familiar face. The blue hedgehog banked in a steep turn, looking up briefly to where a large column of smoke rose from beyond the trees.

From somewhere over the rushing of the wind, Shadow could hear the crackling of flames, the creaking of timbers, and...

"Sonic!" Shadow cried a warning an instant too late, screeching to a halt as four dome-headed, humanoid robots lumbered out of the trees ahead, a laser beam already lancing towards the spot Sonic occupied...

Only he didn't occupy it any more.

A blue blur dropped down from the trees, curled up into a high-speed, spiky ball that resembled nothing so much as a cobalt buzzsaw. Sonic struck the arm of the lead 'bot, reducing its laser-arm to bent armour plating and shorting wires before bouncing over to land neatly next to Shadow, his eyes glittering with something darker than competitiveness, now.

"Ready to trash some SWAT-butts, Shadow?"

Shadow narrowed his eyes, but nodded firmly.

"Then let's rumble!"


Chapter Five - Burn Out (coming soon)


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