Hold On by Skyblaze

Chapter Six - Persistence of Memory

Chapter Six - Persistence of Memory

Hold on - Hold on
Wait maybe the answer's
Looking for you

It was the work of mere moments for Sonic and Shadow to reach the far side of the village. There were fires here, too. Many still burning hot, but some huts were now merely smoking embers, what remained of their structure now slowly collapsing to the earth.

Sally had arranged the Westfold survivors and the Knothole freedom fighters into a living chain of bodies that rapidly passed a hodgepodge mix of buckets, bowls and pans from the river to the village and back again, trying to dowse the remaining structures, fighting valiantly against the raging flames threatening to consume the small settlement.

Shadow could see the exhaustion and despair written on their faces, even half-hidden beneath a coating of smoke and dirt, but there was also a steely resolve, a gritty determination to not give up, to not give in, to maintain their way of life despite the staggering odds.  He could almost admire it, in a way, except he knew that pride and stubbornness could be a lethal combination in the wrong situation. He had seen that same blindness in his own creator - seen it a little late, perhaps, but had still recognised it for what it was.

"Shadow!" Sonic's accented voice called him from his brief reverie, "C'mon, man, we need to put out the fire!"

Shadow nodded his understanding, following the blue blur down to the riverside. It was fairly obvious what Sonic had in mind, so Shadow easily followed along as they circled each other at just-under supersonic speeds, whipping up the river into a towering waterspout. Then came the tricky bit. Waterspouts were not exactly equipped with brakes or a steering wheel, so controlling its direction without losing the carefully-balanced centrifugal force holding it in its roughly cylindrical shape was very, very difficult.

The two hedgehogs span around and around, instinctively knowing how to factor in wind speed, gravity, weight and various other very important factors to steer the column of water towards the burning village. They couldn't see each other, whirling in impossibly complex patterns as they were, but somehow, they still both knew the right moment to relax their motions. They screeched to a stop just in time to watch the water topple into the burning buildings with a wet 'sploosh', putting out the remaining fires.

Sonic turned to look at Shadow, favouring him with one of his trademark cocky grins as the rest of the Mobians burst into spontaneous applause. Sonic turned and made a couple of flamboyant bows to the crowd.

"Thank you, thank you," He said facetiously, still sporting a broad grin. Shadow offered a tiny smile in response, folding his arms over his chest in his usual 'casually guarded' pose. Apparently this wasn't good enough for Sonic, as the blue speedster threw an arm over Shadow's shoulders and tugged him into an exuberant half-hug.

"C'mon, Shadow!" Sonic crowed, "We were awesome, you're allowed to enjoy it!" As soon as Sonic's arm snaked across his back, Shadow had felt a peculiar sensation race down his spine, making his heart pound. Sonic was radiating warmth and life like a miniature sun, and Shadow found himself found himself strangely powerless to move away.

"Yeah," Shadow agreed, struggling to speak through the sudden dryness in his mouth, "We were awesome, all right,"

A deceptively mild voice then broke into Sonic's self-congratulation, "Awesome or not, Sonic Hedgehog, we've still got a lot of work to do, here," Sally said, her hands on hips and her blue eyes flashing. Shadow was released from Sonic's grip, for which Shadow felt a strange mix of relief and disappointment.

"Sure, Sal," Sonic affirmed, "What's next?"

Strange. This was a totally different attitude to the cold, mistrustful face Sonic had presented to him only a couple of hours ago, and different again to the dangerous, determined creature that had helped him take down those SWATbots. He had always known Sonic was a mercurial being, his thoughts and emotions seemed to flicker as fast as his feet, but this…it was as though a couple of hours of running and action had thawed him.

"We need to get everyone back to Knothole," Sally was saying, frowning thoughtfully at the display of her little hand-held computer, "Westfold isn't going to be habitable for a few weeks until we can get repairs finished, so we're going to have to convert the war room into a hostel, and everyone else is going to have to bunk in together," She looked up, "Antoine, you and Bunnie get everyone organised into groups no larger than six people, try and keep families together if you can. We'll lead them back to Knothole using different routes, each group will leave at least an hour apart. Got it?" There was a tired murmur of assent from the assembled refugees and freedom fighters. Shadow frowned slightly, a shame he didn't have a Chaos Emerald or two handy, otherwise he could have the entire village transported back to Knothole in a couple of trips using Chaos Control.

"What about us, Sal?" Sonic asked, tapping his foot absently,

Sally cast a brief, suspicious glance at Shadow before she responded, "You and Shadow go back to Knothole and tell Rosie the situation and help her get ready for incoming refugees,"

"Gotcha, Sal," Sonic nodded before turning to grin at Shadow, "C'mon Stripes, lets juice," Without another word, Sonic took off, a sonic boom trailing in his wake, followed closely by another as Shadow caught up with him.

Coughing slightly in the dust and soot stirred up by their slipstream, Sally sighed in exasperation and not a bit of envy.

Hold on - Hold on
Sunshine shine on through

It was well past sunset by the time the last of the stragglers made it to Knothole. Every bit of spare floor space was taken up by refugees. Knothole was not a large place, for obvious reasons, and now it was filled to bursting. The normal inhabitants of Knothole had been crammed into half of the huts, with the other half acting as shelters.

Sonic was very glad the situation was temporary. He intensely disliked being this crowded in his own home. Though it had thrown him an unexpected bonus in the shape of his living arrangements. Due to the overcrowding, he was being asked to share his hut with Tails and Shadow. In his opinion, a week sharing a hut with his lil' bro would be like one big sleepover party, which could only ever be a good thing. As for Shadow, well, Sonic had been rather surprised to find himself actually liking the black hedgehog. Sure, he was a little bit too reserved, but he did have a cool, sly sense of humour and Sonic was sure that a week in his and Tails' rarefied company would loosen the other Hedgehog up some. Besides, it was nice to have someone around who was actually a challenge to him who wasn't - or at least didn't seem to be - out-and-out evil.

Shame Sonic couldn't really trust him. Robotnik and his manipulative schemes had burned him too many times for that.

Right now, Sonic was on his way through the Great Forest towards Robotropolis, racing around trees, rocks and fallen branches that were scarcely visible in the pale silver moonlight that filtered down through the canopy of leaves.

This was his turf, his own personal obstacle course that he could use to hone his incredible skills to an even sharper edge. Getting rusty was never an option in his world, losing his edge could mean death or robotisisation for him or the Freedom Fighters, and that simple was not an option to him, hence why he was constantly driving himself to become faster, tougher, more agile. Never satisfied, never staying still.

He was glad he was going to see his Uncle tonight. He knew Uncle Chuck understood and approved of Sonic's driving need to push himself, Unc knew it was more than just vanity or a need to show off. As long as one person understood, it was ok.

Weirdly, it had seemed for a moment back in Westfold that Shadow understood, too.

Shadow was actually part of the reason why sonic was now zooming through the oil-slicked and pitted metal streets of Robotropolis towards the garbage heap where Sir Charles Hedgehog hid his lab and listening post. Rotor wanted Chuck to take a look at some of the readings he'd taken of the mysterious black Hedgehog to see if Shadow's story-cum-theory of being from 'another dimension' actually checked out.

Sonic found his thoughts drifting to the other Hedgehog. He thought about that impromptu race to Westfold, how graceful Shadow had been on those air-skate shoes of his, the fierce determination in his ruby eyes when they had faced those SWATbots, the smell of his fur when Sonic had pulled him into that sudden hug…

Skidding to a stop outside one of the innocently non-descript piles of garbage in the dumping yard, Sonic reached out to tap a specific sequence on a piece of metallic debris, and after only a moment which was far too long for Sonic's taste, the well-concealed door swung open.

"Hey Sonny-boy!" Sir Charles greeted his nephew, rising from his seat to offer a gentle hug that Sonic gratefully accepted. It had taken a long time for Sonic's skin to stop cringing away from the cold metal that now made up his Uncle's body, but now Sonic was glad he'd taken the time to get over that irrational reaction, glad he could feel Chuck's warmth and reassurance despite the interference of the lifeless metal between them.

"Hey Unc," Sonic smiled when he was released,

"So, what brings you here? It's not a scheduled drop today,"

"I know, Unc, but Sal asked me to drop by and tell you what went down in Westfold Village earlier, and Roter wanted me to ask you about some readings he took of this guy who dropped in on us,"

"Dropped in on you?" Chuck asked, leaning against his computer console,

"Yeah," Sonic replied, swinging his backpack from his shoulders and rooting around inside it, "Sal says he just dropped out of the sky. He was pretty beat up," Sonic pulled out the data solid he was looking for and handed it over, "Rote and Sal think he's from 'another dimension' or somethin' like that,"

"Oh really?" Chuck said, looking interested as he took the data solid,

"Yeah. Weird though, he's almost as fast as I am, and he's a hedgehog, too, only he's black instead of cool blue…Unc?" Sonic paused when he realised his Uncle had frozen in place. He wasn't much good at reading Chuck's expressions now he was a robot, but Sonic would bet his electric guitar that had Chuck still been a living Mobian, right now he would be chalk-white beneath his fur.

"What…what's this other hedgehog's name?" Sir Charles rasped, his voice strained,

"Shadow." Sonic replied, confused.

The data solid fell out of Chuck's grasp, and he weakly sank into his chair, putting his head in his hands. Sonic's quills flared in alarm, but he felt utterly clueless as to what to do.

"Uncle Chuck?" Sonic said tentatively.

Sir Charles Hedgehog raised his head, but the bright red coals of his robotic eyes were now dim pinpricks or light.

"Sit down, Sonic," Chuck said heavily, "There's something I have to tell you…"


Chapter Seven - Hidden Histories (coming soon)


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