Cornered.

Knuckles peered out from behind the charred stub of a tree. He had just pulverized a mob of silver combat robots, and, for the time being, seemed to have lost his pursuers. Before him stood the entrance to his enemies headquarters. It was built on the location of one of Dr. Robotnik’s earlier bases, when he was attempting to re-launch the Death Egg. For all anyone knew, a similar operation was going on currently. A road lead from jungle towards the heavy, reinforced gateway that blocked the entrance to the ravine. Along each side of the road were evenly spaced dirt-toned mounds. Hidden defense turrets. High on the sides of the metal mountains, heavy artillery cannons were aimed at the spot, waiting for any sign of the echidna who was crouching in the shadows. But he wasn’t waiting for the gate to open, or planning any sort of advanced strategy to get past. He had simply paused to catch his breath.

With a sudden bolt of motion Knuckles blasted out of the cover of the trees. Immediately the advanced programming of the entire surrounding area kicked in. The turrets in the ground rotated into their attacking positions and aimed towards him. Knuckles slammed his fist through one before it began to fire, and used it as a shield against the others. He jumped into the air and threw the turret at one of its partners. They exploded, and Knuckles jumped to the side as soon as he hit the ground. The turrets were firing at him with high-caliber laser machine guns, and each turret rotated from side to side, sending the bullets in a wide spray. However, their range fire power had carefully been calculated in their placement so that they never shot down each other. However, that didn’t mean their streams didn’t cross, and when it did it often caused large explosions. Knuckles had to dodge these in addition to the regular stream of laser. He jumped into the air and glided across to another turret, spinning out of the air towards it. He smashed it into the ground with a heavy punch, and did a back flip in time to dodge the incoming bullets.

He continued this gliding maneuver for a moment and managed to destroy a few more turrets. However, they gauged the situation and began to increase their fire power, as well as putting up and electrical shield around themselves. Knuckles jumped and rolled left and right, looking for a weakness in their design. He quickly spotted that there was a small hole in the shield where the guns were located. He charged a turret, aiming for that. Every few seconds the stream of bullets from any one particular turret would stop as it rotated too close to another turret, and Knuckles had to time his attack perfectly. He jumped over the gun fire and threw himself forward. His hand entered the hole in the shield just as the turret ceased fire. He grabbed a hold of the bowl shaped top of the turret and used his inertia to pull himself through the air behind the turret. Knuckles wrenched of the cap of the turret, causing its shield to disappear. He quickly grabbed the turret and turned it towards its comrades. Their programming prevented them from directly shooting each other, which meant the Guardian was protected. Knuckles soon destroyed the remaining turrets and tore the last turret out of the ground. He was about to throw it at the ravine barricade to attempt to damage it when he felt a vibration. It quickly grew to a powerful tremor as another of the gates defense mechanisms activated.

High walls shot out of the ground on each side of the road, stretching all the way to the gate and connected to its frame. Knuckles ran towards the jungle, but a third wall shot out of the middle of the road, sealing him in. He ran back towards the gate and jumped onto one of the side walls. He dug his knuckle spurs into the black metal and began to quickly climb out. He had almost reached the top when he heard a loud boom, followed by a whistle of sorts, but with a strange electricity to it. Whether the temperature actually increased, or it was merely Knuckles heightened senses, he felt his back getting hotter and turned to see a large energy blast rocketing towards him from one of the mountain cannons. He jumped and glided to the opposite wall, and the laser blasts obliterated the spot where he had been hanging a few seconds earlier. But before Knuckles could get free he saw more rounds coming in. And there was nowhere to run.

* * * * *

Miles was approaching the city, looking as dismal and desolate as ever. He didn’t see much activity, and began to descend. However, something just didn’t feel right, and the fox’s suspicions were answered when the T4’s defense system began to sound an alarm indicating oncoming projectiles. Miles immediately checked the radar, located the missiles coming from below him, and pulled back on the controls. The Tornado 4 arched up just in time, the two antiaircraft missiles shooting past him and exploding a short distance away. “So, finally decided to go on the offensive, huh?” The explosion rocked the plane, but Miles kept it steady, quickly executing a barrel roll to dodge the third incoming missile. However, he didn’t see the fourth coming in from the opposite side, which blasted the left wing off. “Crap!” Miles yelled as the plane began to go into a tailspin. He spotted the location of the SAM site and forced the Tornado 4 towards it, grabbing his sword and jumping out at the last second. “Looks like I’ll have to rebuild this plane again.”

The Tornado 4 crashed into the missile launcher as Miles landed on a nearby building. Flames coiled into the polluted air as the SAM site building collapsed. Miles watched for a moment before running to the edge of the building and jumping off. He began to fall down the multi floored building, his coat flapping noisily as it twisted around him in the wind. He spun his tails around and slowed himself down, landing in a crouched position. He slid his flight goggles up to his ears and replaced them with his sunglasses. He stood up slowly, reaching into his coat and drawing his handguns. “Well, if it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll get.”

* * * * *

The last of the cannon rounds exploded on the ground, and the smoke began to clear. The road had been utterly obliterated. A giant crater was all that remained, lined with rubble from the walls that had trapped Knuckles. And even most of that had been disintegrated by the blasts. Even the heavily fortified gateway had been damaged, and almost looked like it would soon fall off its hinges. The cannons analyzed the area and saw no sign of their target, and so returned to their stand-by positions. A deathly silence fell over the area. It was punctured a minute later by the sound of the densely packed ground of the crater cracking. A fist shot out of the center of the crevice, quickly followed by the rest of Knuckles’ body. He ran forward and threw a punch into the seam of the gate, which had been opened by the explosion. He slammed his other fist into the hole, and pulled against the two sides of the towering doors. After struggling for a moment the two halves were flung apart, leaving the ravine wide open. Knuckles dashed in as the cannons prepared to fire.

* * * * *

Miles rounded the corner of the building and was met by a stream of bullets. He jumped back around the corner, pressing himself against the low wall. He waited for the gunfire to stop, then dashed around the corner, firing two shots quickly. Two of the silver robots fell, and Miles quickly spotted the third advancing behind it. He charged forward, holstered his guns, jumped off the bodies of the fallen robots, drew his sword in mid-air, activated the electric core, and slashed straight through the robot. Miles skidded along the ground as the robot exploded behind him. He sheathed his sword and dashed into one of the buildings still standing nearby.

* * * * *

The ravine was lined with more turrets, firing rapidly at him as he ran. He weaved from side to side, dodging the laser bullets and smashing turrets as he got the opportunity. The lasers’ heat scorched Knuckles fur, but he continued to move forward, ignoring them. The laser fire continued to fall heavily, but began to get more focused as Knuckles moved through the ravine. The reason for this was soon revealed to be the army of battle robots marching against Knuckles. They stretched across the entire ravine, and all their weapons were trained carefully on Knuckles. He met them head on, smashing into the fire ranks. They began to fire at him, but he moved his way carefully through the horde. He smashed his fists through the metallic soldiers, throwing them into each other, knocking them down in groups. Combining this with the turret fire that Knuckles also used to his advantage, it was almost too easy. It would almost seem, at least to an outside observer, that Knuckles was being enticed into the valley. Of course, none of this occurred to him, only his warrior’s instinct and rage drove him on through the battle. Eventually he had fought his way to the end of the ravine, and the robot numbers began to thin, he destroyed the last of them, as well as the turrets surrounding him. He paused again to recover, the grand expanse of the Eggman Empire’s Floating Island Headquarters stretched out before him.

Factories, warehouses, research facilities made up the majority of the buildings, where new units were developed and awaited deployment. Build into the sides of the mountains were hangers and more factories devoted to aerial units. Similar hangers existed all along the underside of the island itself. There were also new structures that Knuckles hadn’t seen before. They were single level buildings, made of gleaming metal like all the others, and they were positioned next to more factories, but of a different kind than the robot-producing kind. Whatever they held, they obviously didn’t bode well. There were no power plants of any kind in the base, except for the power produced inside the towering Central Command building that stood in the center of the fortification. It, more so than all the other buildings, seemed to glow a strange green energy. Knuckles knew the source of this power, which had been stolen from him. He knew it as well as he knew himself, and felt its mystic power coursing through his body, strengthening him. At the top of the building stood the power source of Metal Knuckles’ operations, the Master Emerald. And no doubt Metal Knuckles was there with it, waiting for a challenge. A challenge Knuckles would be sure to provide.

Rain began to fall on the gleaming metal city, as nature itself realized the powers preparing to wage battle that night.

* * * * *

Miles quickly ascended the stairs leading towards the roof. He walked across the small room at the top and kicked the door open. He dashed out and quickly scanned the roof of the former office building. No robots. Miles ran to the edge of the building. He jumped off and flew onto the next building. This roof wasn’t empty. Miles landed running, immediately taking out the quintet of silver robots waiting for him.  He leapt to the next roof, which only had a small arch along one edge remaining. As he ran across, two jet-like robots flew in straight towards him, trying to trap him and force him off the thin ledge. He turned back for a moment to see another robot flying in behind him. As two trio drew closer to him as he ran, and idea struck him. He shot the two robots coming towards him, causing them to fall and crash into the side of the building. Using his tails to keep balance as the roof shook, Miles continued to the edge and jumped straight off. He turned around in mid-air as he fell, and aimed up at the black jet robot. It passed the edge and turned to descend towards Miles, but the robot wasn’t quick enough for the fox’s trigger finger. He shot straight into the robot’s core, and it began to fall towards him. He flipped around and began spinning his tails, moving away from the falling mech’s path. It fell past him, and he pushed himself off it to help propel himself to the next building.

He ran across the roof of the lower building, taking out the two robots that jumped out of holes in the cement and attempted to capture him with an energy net stretched between the two of them. He jumped the crossing light beams, turning around to shoot the small flying robot that was flying in to finish him off. He jumped off the edge of the roof and flew towards a broken skyscraper in the distance. He was about to step onto the edge of the highest level still intact when a laser blast shot past him, he fired in its direction, barely missing the large robot that had fired it. Miles began to lose his balance and fell off the building. He turned in mid-air to see the small squad of battle robots waiting for him, and the smaller robots flying up towards him. He shot them down as he fell, however their comrades dodged the falling remains. Miles fired down at the robots, but they deployed shields, blocking to darts. They began to fire at him. Miles bent himself from side to side, using his flying skills to help direct his body. He holstered his guns and drew his sword, slowing himself down. He impacted the center of the squad, slashing through their shields with his sword. He immediately eliminated the machines closest to him and dashed through the group, cutting them in half. Sparks and oil flew through the air as the robots exploded and collapsed on the ground. Miles stood up from the wreckage and looked around. He’d made a lot of progress, and soon realized he was only a mile or so from the base of the hill. From there, the real city began. Not abandoned and lifeless wreckage, but bustling metropolis. Still lifeless none the less. But that should be expected of Robotnikland, capital of the Eggman Empire.

Miles’ ear twitched as he heard the sound of jet engines coming towards him. He sheathed his katana as he jumped into the shadows of a brick wall. As three more of the black jet robots neared his location he reached down and drew his guns. They passed his hiding spot, and Miles jumped out of the shade and quickly shot them down. He ran over to where they fell, fighting off the swarms of small bomb robots they had deployed. Miles ran to the robot that appeared to be the least destroyed in the crash and opened up its core. “A little quick work should fetch me a ride from one of these ‘bots,” Miles said as he fiddled with the CPU. He soon brought the robot back to life, removing the darts and putting them in his pocket. He was almost out of ammo, but at this point he didn’t plan on turning back, or even returning for that matter. Miles quickly reprogrammed the robot to allow him to input orders directly from the outside and then jumped on the back. He powered its engines and pointed them towards the ground. The robot began to lift into the air, and Miles ascended above the ruins. He then turned the robot towards the building he’d been shot off of. He spotted the large machine that had fired at him and destroyed it as he flew past. He was approaching the edge of the mountain quicker now, shooting down robots with help from their former comrade. Until one of them managed to shoot him down.

The fox jumped from his robot steed onto the building where the attack had come from. It was another office building, the exposed floor being a room full of small cubicles. The attacker was hiding in one of them. Miles drew his guns once again as he slowly walked forward. He kept a keen eye and ear, waiting for any sign of the enemy. It decided to show him a sign. A row of cubicles exploded as Miles barely dodged the laser fired through them. He turned to see a machine he had not yet encountered. It stood a good two feet taller than him, its body large and bulky, the head flat against the wide core. Its arms were especially large, with clawed hands that were sliding out to replace the laser blasters there previously. The robot’s thick armor was a menacingly dark red and black, and its left shoulder bore an ancient symbol that could be likened to a strangely formed upside-down “U”. Its electronic voice was deep and foreboding.

“SUBJECT: MILES PROWER. FOX. APROXIMATELY 20 YEARS OLD,” it declared. It pointed its arms back towards Miles, transforming them into Gatling guns. “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. COME WITH ME OR BE ELIMINATED.”

“So, you must be the latest of Robotnik’s super robots, sent to finally eliminate me once and for all,” Miles said, keeping his guns aimed at the robot’s head.

“AFFIRMATIVE. I AM E-123 OMEGA, THE GREATEST OF THE E-100 SERIES AND ALL EGGMAN EMPIRE ROBOTS. THEREFORE, RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

“We’ll have to see about that,” Miles said as he quickly fired at Omega. The robot brought up his arm, deflecting the darts with his powerful armor.

“ELECTRICOMAGNECTICLY CHARGED DARTS. IMPRESSIVE, BUT THEY WILL NOT SAVE YOU,” Omega said. He pointed his guns back at Miles, and began to fire heavy streams of bullets. Miles rolled to the side to dodge it, but the E-100 series robot’s advanced sensors immediately followed him. He ran around the robot, but it continued to fire at him, destroying the entire office area. “TARGET IS FAST THAN IN DATA, SWITCHING TO MORE POWERFUL WEAPON.”

Miles turned back to Omega as the gunfire stopped, only to see tiny missile launchers extend themselves from his wrists. Omega began to fire, and Miles jumped back and to the side as the projectile sped towards him. He wouldn’t be able to run around these as the robot would likely predict the maneuver. So he continued to jump back as Omega fired round after round. Miles quickly glanced behind him as he felt his foot leave ground, and realized he’d been backed to the edge of the building. “Not good,” he muttered as he turned back to Omega.

“PREPARE TO BE ELIMINATED,” the robot said, before firing another missile. He shot through Miles left side. He yelled in pain, dropping one of his guns as his hand flew to grasp his side. He stumbled back, and fell off the building, plummeting to the ground below. Omega walked to the edge of the building and looked down, scanning the area. “TARGET CAN NOT BE LOCATED. TARGET HAS BEEN ELIMINATED. RETURNING TO BASE.” Omega fired up the flight boosters on his back and took off for the center of the city. Polluted rain began to fall on the dusty ruins.

————————————————————————————————————

Previous Chapter.

Index.

Next Chapter.

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