Leaves rustled violently. Shrubbery and twigs crack and crunch with every step. Whole trees are bent, thrown to the side, or just smashed in half as the enraged echidna frantically charges through the jungle. Overhead he can still he hear the slight hum of his robotic counterpart’s propulsion engine, heading towards the mountains in the distance. Knuckles glanced to his left through the trees. He was running just on the edge of this section of the jungle, and would be completely free of the bothersome vegetation if not for the lake blocking his way.
He continued, trying his best to clear a path for himself. If he’d been thinking straighter he probably would have taken to the upper tree branches, and maybe even taken to the sky. However, with this powerful of an enemy threatening to get their hands on the Master Emerald, Knuckles was being driven purely by his instinct. He looked to the left again, and saw that the lake had begun to shrink as it rounded off into one of the many rivers that ran down from the mountain, through the jungles and forests, and off the island. Of course, somehow there was always water flowing, but that was just one of the many mysteries of the island.
He sidestepped out of the trees, now running along a large plain like clearing. Up ahead he saw a strange collection of mushrooms. The island, with its large size, was rich in its variety of vegetation and terrain. A majority of the outer edge of the island was covered in tropical jungle, but a large amount of the forests were also deciduous and coniferous, as well as fungous. A large part of the forests were covered in strange, giant mushrooms. They had various properties, from being abnormally strong and springy to ones that could be held on to and used to glide on air currents. Knuckles reached the clump of parasitic organisms, finding three of ascending lengths conveniently lined up in a row. He jumped, bouncing off the first, then the second, and the third. Growing off of the side of a tree was another mushroom, which he recognized as the parachute variety. He grabbed a hold of it, and soon a gust of wind caught it and he began to float into the air. As he reached the peak of his climb, he let go of the mushroom, breaking into a glide. Metal Knuckles still had a gain on him, and Knuckles did everything he could to increase his speed.
The descent of his glide was almost ground level when he reached the base of the mountain. He latched on to the side, and using all his strength, he repeatedly launched himself higher up the mountain, climbing higher and higher with each jump. Here and there he would climb straight along the rock face till her reached an outcropping. He saw no sign of Metal Knuckles, and hoped it meant that he had beaten the robot there. Just as he was getting to the height where the Master Emerald was hidden, however, he heard the low roar of Metal’s engines, and the red robot came streaking around the mountain, headed straight for where the Emerald’s cave was. Knuckles jumped off the side of the mountain, glided around its edge, then grabbed back on and continued to climb up to where the freshly dug cave had been exposed.
He walked in, cautious of where the robot could be hiding. Overhead small stalagetites were already growing. As he traversed deeper into the cave the light from the entrance faded, and he was plunged into darkness. However, he soon rounded a corner, and new light began to shine. A strange green glow, that could only come from one source. The Master Emerald. Knuckles soon entered a circular chamber. And there in the middle of it stood Metal Knuckles, the Master Emerald in his hands.
“So, you finally decided to show up,” Metal Knuckles said, turning to face his original.
“Yeah, and this is as far as you’re getting. Hand over the Emerald. Now,” Knuckles said, taking a fighting stance.
Metal Knuckles laughed. “Well then, if you want the Emerald so badly, then you can have it!” Metal Knuckles spun around, throwing the Master Emerald towards Knuckles, who dove forward to catch. Metal Knuckles dashed towards him and slammed him into the wall, catching the Emerald before it fell. “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Metal Knuckles said as one of his hands began to spin, transforming into a gun barrel. He pointed it at the ceiling of the cave and fired a yellow laser which blasted through the rock. Sunlight blasted into the dim cave, blinding Knuckles as he tried to stand up. Metal Knuckles fired up his boosters and shot out of the cave.
“You’re not getting away that easily!” Knuckles yelled, stumbling towards the light. He jumped out of the opening and managed to catch onto Metal Knuckles leg. The weight of the two passengers began to wear down Metal’s engine, and the two slowly descended towards the side of the mountain. The landed on a flat plateau-like formation on the edge of one of the lower peaks, and Knuckles, still holding onto Metal’s ankle, tried to throw him to the ground. Metal twisted free and kicked Knuckles in the face, flying a few yards away from him and setting the Master Emerald down.
“I can tell you’re not going to give up easily,” Metal Knuckles said as he got into a fighting stance. “In which case, I‘ll simply have to eliminate you now!” Metal Knuckles dashed forward, slamming the flat side of his arm into Knuckles’ stomach. The echidna’s body bent at the middle as his robotic counterpart towards the edge of the plateau. He recovered, and grabbed Metal Knuckles’ arm. Fighting inertia, Knuckles slammed his feet to the ground. His heels dug deep trenches in the rock, pebbles flying into the air. The rock eventually won and the slowed the two to a stop. The crimson combatters stood still for a minute until Knuckles pulled Metal to the ground. His armor produced a high ringing noise as he hit the ground.
Knuckles moved to finish off the robot, but Metal Knuckles jumped up, kicking Knuckles in the face. He stumbled back a step, but was prepared when Metal threw his next punch. Knuckles caught his fist, and did the same with the next. Once again, the two were at a standstill, but only for a brief moment. Knuckles jumped, flipping over Metal Knuckles. Landing behind Metal, he had pulled the robot with him throwing him to the dirt. Knuckles quickly grabbed him by the neck, lifting him into the air. He popped the robot with an uppercut, sending him upwards. Metal Knuckles flipped in the air, pointing himself towards Knuckles. He blasted straight down, arm pulled back for a punch. Knuckles jumped to the side at the last second. Metal slammed into the ground, causing a cloud of dust to fly into the air.
Knuckles squinted, trying to see through the brown haze. His eyes opened wide as Metal Knuckles came bursting from the cloud, spiked fist aimed at Knuckles’ head. He ducked, kicking Metal Knuckles in the stomach. He grabbed Knuckles’ foot before he could pull it away, taking the echidna with him as he executed a mid-air version of the flipping technique used against him earlier. Knuckles landed on his back but sprang to his feet quickly. Just in time to be elbowed in the back by Metal Knuckles at full speed. He landed face first in the dirt, coughing on impact. Red specks stained the dust by his face. Feeling Metal approaching, he rolled to the side quickly, barely dodging the killer robot’s fist.
He swung his leg out, tripping Metal, then spinning around to the deliver two spinning kicks to his face as he fell. The robot crashed to the ground, giving Knuckles time to stand up. He was still gasping for breath as Metal Knuckles got to his feet. “It would seem you may be harder to get rid of than I thought,” Metal said. “So, I‘ll just have to make this more interesting.” He glanced to his right, where the Master Emerald was still sitting. Knuckles did the same, and quickly realized what Metal Knuckles was implying.
“You can‘t really…?”
“You‘d be amazed at the upgrades I‘ve had.” Knuckles began to run for the Master Emerald, but Metal’s hover drive was faster. He grabbed the Master Emerald, a circle opening on his center just below his white crescent. Green energy began to course from the Master Emerald to him ,and his armor began to become lighter colored as the Chaos Energy surrounded him. The circle in his armor closed and Metal released the Emerald. He began to float into the air, laughing maniacally. “Let‘s see how long you can last against Hyper Metal Knuckles!”
“I‘ve beaten one of you super powered robots before, I can do it again!”
“We‘ll see if the years have proven otherwise,” Hyper Metal Knuckles replied. If he had a mouth, it would be smirking. Suddenly, he disappeared, only to reappear a second later standing snout to metallic snout with Knuckles. “Boo,” he said as he raised his hand to the stunned Knuckles’ face, flicking him just between the eyes with a single finger. Knuckles flew backwards, all the way to the edge of the plateau. He would have continued flying had Hyper Metal not flown behind him, stopping him just before he went over. He quickly punched Knuckles in the back, sending him back towards the center of the plateau. Knuckles managed to land on his feet this time, attempting to block Hyper Metal’s next attack, with some success.
Hyper Metal Knuckles began to launch a volley of punches, and Knuckles swerved from side to side, attempting to dodge them. However, delirious from being knocked around, he was unable to keep up with Hyper Metal Knuckles’ high speed punches for long. Soon, the Guardian was being ruthlessly bombarded by his robot clone. After what seemed like a perpetual series of punches, Hyper Metal ceased, allowing Knuckles to fall forward to the ground. The battered echidna tried to push himself off the ground, but his arms gave way and he fell. He tried again, speaking through clenched teeth. “I‘m not… letting you… get way… with… this…”
“Oh really?” Hyper Metal questioned, his electronic voice clearly taking on a mocking tone. He reached down, picking Knuckles up by the neck. He pulled the struggling echidna to his eye level. “Face it original, I‘ve already won. And there is nothing you can do about it.” He tossed Knuckles lightly into the air, only to slam his fist into Knuckles’ muzzle with a fierce uppercut. Knuckles was propelled high above, and Hyper Metal Knuckles flew after him. He stopped just above Knuckles, interlocking his clawed fingers, and slammed his duel fists into Knuckles, sending him back the way he came. He then proceeded to fly around Knuckles, attacking him from all sides, never allowing the echidna to fall more than a few feet. Eventually he grabbed onto Knuckles on each side, holding his arms in against his body. “And now it is time to say goodbye.” He spun around and threw Knuckles towards the cliff, into the jungle. He watched as Knuckles passed over the plateau’s edge, soon followed by the sound of something crashing through the forest canopy. “The chances of him surviving that fall are low, and I can‘t find him with my sensors. Objective B accomplished.” Metal Knuckles lowered himself to the ground, going out of his super state. He walked over to the Master Emerald, and picked it up off the ground. “And now my main objective. Returning to base. Farewell original, you put in a good fight.” Metal Knuckles took to the skys, flying deeper into the mountains.
However, far below in the jungle, Knuckles still alive, silently pledging his vengeance as he lay there, slipping in and out of consciousness…
* * * * *
Knuckles opened his eyes, leaving the world of his memories. Looking to the sky, he saw that it was almost noon. “Better head back. Can‘t spend all day daydreaming.” Knuckles stood up, taking one last look at the ocean, and turned back to the jungle.
* * * * *
Knuckles stepped out from the tunnel, looking around his cave home. Strangely, it seemed empty. “Shade? You home?” he called as he placed the cover back on the secret rock. There was no answer. On the table was a small pile of the fruit shade had wanted, and as Knuckles walked over to it he saw a note. He quickly picked it up and read it.
“Dear Knuckles, if you’re reading this, you likely got home before I returned. The fruit didn’t take long to find, and I picked up the other supplies on my way there, so I decided to do some scouting of the desert after I dropped them off. I’ll be back around noon.
Also, there’s one more thing…”
Knuckles read the last paragraph, and series of emotions swept over him. First a slight doubt, then an uneasiness, both wiped out by an overwhelming sense of joy. A smile erupted on his face and set the note down, sighing a “Wow…” He walked towards the main cave entrance. “In that case, I certainly can‘t just wait for her. We have to celebrate!” He left the cave, heading towards Sandopolis.
* * * * *
In about half an hour, Knuckles had reached the edge of Sandopolis. The harsh, yellow desert stretched out before him, and here and there ancient ruins dotted the otherwise flat landscape. Far to his right was the oasis that was his destination. As he neared it he saw footprints matching Shade’s. But as he got closer he grew more worried. Soon he spotted other tracks in the sand, which were obviously of a robotic origin. He picked up his speed, sprinting to the oasis.
There his fears were realized. Clearly there had been a struggle. The sand was churned up, making the footprints indistinguishable from one another. It was unclear who the winner was to Knuckles as he frantically searched the area. The odd robot part was strewn here and there, but Knuckles need evidence to dispel his worries. Unfotunately, the evidence was against him.
Just to the left of Knuckles’ frantic searching, s small item was hidden. Had he not happened to brush over it with his hand, it likely would have stayed hidden. Knuckles removed his from the sand slowly, his hands shaking. Sure enough, it was on of Shade’s Leech Blade bracelet. Rage built up in Knuckles and he began to forcefully slam his fists into the sand, sending it flying up at him. He didn’t care, or even notice, as he continued to mercilessly pound the desert floor, the ground beneath the sand cracking. He looked skyward and let out a long, painful roar as Shade’s last words echoed in his head.
“I‘m not exactly sure how to say this, and I didn‘t want to tell you till I was almost sure. But I suppose just saying it is the simplest way the do this. Knuckles, I think I‘m pregnant. We‘re going to be parents!”