Dozing in Dusk.

“So, how are things going with you guys?” Hopper asked over their communications radio.

“Apart from the darkness, we haven’t had any trouble yet,” Miles replied. “Though honestly that worries me more. Rouge, have you found the control room yet.”

“Almost. Just give me a minute; this place is hard enough to navigate when it’s activated.”

“Honestly, I’m actually kind of appreciating all that training in the dark I did.” Hopper said, as he was placing a bomb on a metal column. “It’s really heightened my sense… wait a minute, I think I just heard something moving.” He pressed himself against the wall and inched towards the end of the long hallway he was in. He peered around the corner into the next room, spotting the source of the noise. Floating over a pool of some strange green fluid was a blue sphere with a robotic head. Hopper pulled a throwing knife out of a pouch on his suit and with a flick of a wrist he sent it into the robot’s head, causing it to explode. “I just found some weird bubble robot floating in here, but I took care of it.”

“There are probably still some of the experimental robots that were developed here lying around. Robotnik might have even made more,” Miles replied.

“This is Rouge. We’ve found the control room, the door’s locked, but I should be able to get in.” Just as Rouge finished saying this, Amy smashed the door open with her hammer, causing her and Sogeki to jump back in surprise. “I mean just using the password. Gerald Robotnik seemed to base everything off the same password.”

“That doesn’t seem very smart,” Amy remarked as they walked into the control room and Rouge flew up to the console. “So, what is the password?”

“The password is… Maria,” Rouge said as she typed it into the computer. Suddenly the whole room seemed to come to come to life, the various screens lighting up and a wave of energy coming out from the strange mechanism in the center of the room, which was in fact part of the eclipse cannon. Attached to it was the place where the Chaos Emeralds were placed, and even after crashing into the planet and staying seemingly undisturbed for a decade, they still shined with their strange ethereal glow.

“Maria? That sounds like a name.” Sogeki remarked as he set up his rifle to point towards the way they had just come in.

“It was the name of Gerald’s granddaughter, Mario Robotnik. The whole reason he began Project Shadow was to cure her of a rare disease,” Rouge said as she worked through the ARK’s system. “But when G.U.N. came to shut down the project, she was killed trying to save Shadow…” After working her way through some more files, Rouge placed a small disk into the computer, copied a file to it, and then placed the disc in a mini-computer. “I’m sending you a map to the cannon’s core, fox boy. I should get power restored in just a little longer.”

“Good, because this place is starting to give me the creeps,” Hopper said. “I get this feeling like I’m being watched… something’s not right.” He proceeded down the next hallway he found himself in. He turned left into another room when Rouge announced the lights were coming back on. With a blinding flash Hopper found himself in some sort of laboratory, which was understandable, considering that the ARK was a research facility. But it was the contents that shocked him. Holding down the “talk” button after intending to make a remark about giving him a little more warning before blinding him, all that left his mouth for a while were incomprehensible fragments of speech.

“Hopper, what is it? What did you find?” Miles asked while Rouge tracked his location in relation to the core.

“Remember those weird alien things, and how after Robotnik showed up they just seemed to disappear? I think I found them.” Littered all over the room were the bodies of Black Arms soldiers, many of them disfigured in horrible ways from dissections and other experiments. And in the center of the room was a row of tables with bodies on them that almost seemed like they had been abandoned to die in the middle of experimentation. Against his better judgment, Hopper continued to walk through the room, continuing to report to the others. “This is messed up. I knew Robotnik was crazy, but I didn’t think he would do something like this.” The aliens on the tables seemed to be in various stages of the same procedure, with various mechanical bits sticking in and out of them. The one on the last table seemed almost completely replaced with robotic parts. “Was he trying to make them into robots? But then why go to such extre…” Hopper froze as he heard the sound of a metal clinking on the floor.

“Hopper, are you still there? What happened?” Miles asked as he and Sonic began to move towards the path to the core.

Hopper slowly turned around, to find that it was just a wrench that had been sitting on one of the tables he had passed by. “I-I’m okay. It was just a wrench I must have knocked off a table. I’m fi… oh crap!”

Hopper’s radio was suddenly cut off. “Hopper! Hopper, are you there? Answer me?!” Miles yelled, but with no reply. “Sounds like Robotnik found us. Stay alert. Rouge, your group needs to hold the control room until we can get to the core. Stay there until I give the order to fire the cannon.”

“I’ll start the charging sequence,” Rouge said. Turning to her partners, she said, “Get ready for a fight. If they don’t go after Sonic and Fox boy, they’ll definitely come here first.”

“And things were going so well,” Hellsing said before drawing his dual submachine guns. He had started to head towards the far side of the ARK, knowing he’d have to move fast if he was going to lay his bombs and get out in time. He’d probably have to blast his way out himself, so he’d taken one of Jub’s larger bombs with him. He reached an intersection of two hallways, and leaned around the corner on the left. He didn’t see anything that way so he stepped out, but immediately turned around when he heard a dull screech like metal scraping on metal. “So that’s what the frog was freaking out about,” Hellsing said as he saw what made the noise. Approaching from the other direction was a group of what was once Black Arms aliens, but had since been heavily modified with robotics to the point where they were barely recognizable. They seemed to being moving slowly for now, so Hellsing put on of his guns away, pulled out a bomb, placed on the corner he had just flipped around, armed it, and grabbed his gun again. “This should be interesting.”

* * * * *

“That was the creepiest thing I’ve ever had to fight,” Hopper gasped as he looked at the robotic Black Arm he had just fought. Unlike the ones Hellsing and the others were encountering, whose remaining flesh still appeared alive, the one Hopper had found seemed to have been an incomplete model, as its flesh was rotting off of from the robotic attachments, while this made it easy to kill, since it could barely move and was falling apart, it gave it a clearly more zombie like appearance, which is made worse when it grabs onto your shoulder from behind moments after you assumed it to be as dead as the rest of the bodies in the room. Taking that into account, Hopper looked around the room, placed an explosive on the wall, and quickly ran away down the hall. Only to run into another squad of Robo Arms. “Seriously? Well, at least these ones don’t look as Living Impaired. But that’ll only make them more of a challenge.” Reaching for his sword with one hand and his throwing knives with the other, Hopper examined his enemy. The aliens weren’t much taller than him, but they were much larger in terms of bulk, and probably brute strength. On one arm they had some sort of laser weapon, and the other was a glowing purple sword, likely made of some sort of plasma substance. This group numbered five, but no doubt more were patrolling the corridors of the ARK, especially now that the power was reactivated and there would be no way for Robotnik not to know they were there. Because of this, it’d be best to conserve strength, but also be quick in laying the bombs and getting out, or else he might get caught in the explosion.

With this thought in mind, Hopper threw three knives with blinding speed, hitting the lead soldier in the face and the two flanking him in the chest and shoulder. He ran forward, decapitating the leader as it stumbled forward, then dispatched the alien to his left by running his sword through its chest. He kicked it away, causing it to knock over its ally behind him, then whirled around and slashed the next one diagonally along a break between its robotics and flesh. Hopper jumped sideways and rolled on the ground to dodge a sword swing quickly followed by a laser blast. Using his momentum he slashed up, cutting off the alien’s gun arm and stabbing its side into what he assumed would be its lungs and heart, or at the very least some kind of vital organ. He withdrew his sword, allowing the alien to fall to the floor as he turned his attention to the final alien, which had by now freed itself from its fallen comrade. He began to fire at Hopper, who jumped to the side to dodge the laser fire. He continued to run to the side, the alien’s shots just seconds behind him as it seemed to simply follow him instead of trying to aim for where he was going. As he neared the alien, Hopper jumped up onto the wall, ran along it, and then slashed down, killing the last alien. Seeing as there were no more around him currently, he took the time to pick up the three knives he had used, and continued on his way.

* * * * *

“These guys never seem to stop comin’!” Jub yelled as he threw a grenade into the crowd of Robo Arms.

“We are in a more central area of the ARK, so it’s more likely we’d run into large amounts of enemies,” Niwea, who was standing behind Jub, said as she shot one of the aliens in the head with her handgun. She usually relied more on hand to hand combat one the rare occasions she had to fight during their missions, but had decided a gun, modified in a similar fashion to Miles’s, would be more useful against the robots. It seemed to work just as well on robot aliens.

“Good thing I ran into you though, or this might not have turned out so good,” Jub said grabbing an assault rifle from his weapons pack. The two had originally been heading towards separate sides of the ARK, while Hopper was covering the upper levels and Hellsing was on the far side, but had both been routed towards the center by the aliens. As Jub started to shoot down the aliens who had survived the grenade blast, he said, “I just hope the others aren’t having too much trouble with these guys. But we still need to figure out a way out of here.”

“I managed to plant most of my bombs before I ran into any resistance, so we can go back the way you came.”

“Fine by me,” Jub said, reaching for a long tube-like weapon. “You might want to duck.” With a pull of the trigger Jub sent a powerful RPG into straight through the aliens, blasting them a clear path. The two made a run for it, shooting down the few who had survived the explosion. As they ran down the hall, Jub pulled the pin on one more grenade and tossed it behind them, buying them some time with a fiery explosion.

* * * * *

“Alright, just have to place this charge and… gah! Fricking aliens!” Hellsing yelled as he dodged a laser blast from one of the Robo Arms following him. He turned and let loose a few short bursts of fire, stopping the alien dead in its tracks, before turning back and finishing arming the bomb. He jumped to his feet and continued running down the corridor, only to find a dead end. “Well this isn’t good,” he muttered, turning around to face the oncoming aliens. “But I guess I’ll have to do this the hard way.” Hellsing pointed his guns at the edges of the advancing group, and started to fire while moving his arms in towards the center, he managed to take out the front few alien soldiers like this, before one of them managed to fire off a laser, forcing Hellsing to dodge. He rolled to the side and immediately jumped to his feet, shooting down the alien that show at him. Executing the same maneuver he managed to take out three more, leaving only two in this group standing. One of them swung at Hellsing with his sword, but the bat jumped up into the air, flying for a moment and firing down at the alien. He dropped back to the floor as the last alien began to shoot at him. He ran towards the alien, weaving left and right, and kicked it over before unloading more bullets into its face. “That takes care of that… those two better get to that core before I run out of ammo!”

* * * * *

“This path seems full of experimental robots, are you sure we’re going the right direction?” Sonic asked, as he sat on the strange device that when touched seemed to freeze time in the room.

“According to the map this is the quickest way to the cannon’s core. It would make sense that it would be heavily guarded,” Miles said as he shot the frozen Hornet unit hovering in the room. “All clear.” Sonic stood up, and the device began to emit a beeping noise, and soon enough the boxes that had been moving through the room via some strange transportation system began moving again, and the doors at the end of the corridor opened. The two walked through them to find themselves looking down a deep tunnel, lined with lasers and Artificial Chaos. “Looks like we need to go down there. If we hit that switch back there it should stop the lasers, but I can’t quite see what’s at the bottom.”

“Guess we’ll just have to go for it,” Sonic said, running to go hit the time freezing device, then dashing back as Miles jumped into the abyss. The two quickly fell started to fall past the numerous frozen enemies, but in the distance they could hear the beeping of the device speed up. As they neared the end of the tunnel they found a pool of the green fluid they had run into earlier. As time unfroze Miles spotted three of the devices along the edge of the tunnel, and quickly shot them, freezing time again. He then grabbed onto Sonic and started to fly, carrying the two of them the nearby door. “This would be so much easier in the Cyclone,” Miles said as the door opened revealing another room with a time switch, security door, and moving blocks. “But I also wouldn’t be able to do this.” Miles jumped up and flew over the deadly puzzle, carrying Sonic with him.

After blowing down the security door with explosives they found themselves in a large chamber with waterfalls of some sort of orange fluid. “Alright Rouge, what do we do now?”

“Currently the core is filled with that orange liquid. You’re going to need to drain it somehow… there should be a switch in the middle of the room you’re in now.”

“I see, but it’s got some kind of shield around it.”

“The switch to deactivate it must be in one of the surrounding rooms. Looks like you’ll have to figure that out on your own.”

“It looks like there’s a hallway through here,” Sonic said, pointing to one of the orange waterfalls. “But this current is strong, so unless we can find one of those time switches…”

“Let me look around,” Miles said, scanning the room. Around the drainage switch were four pillars of varying heights. “Maybe up on the highest one?” Miles asked himself, flying up to the tallest pillar. And as he had guessed, there was a time switch on top. “I found it Sonic! Go check that room!”

“Already did!” Sonic called back, standing on top of the switch in the center of the room. As Miles jumped back down, however, an alarm began blaring and a robotic voice echoed throughout the chamber.

“SYSTEM ALERT! SYSTEM ALERT! ENERGY CORE SAFE PROGRAM TERMINATED! SELF REPAIR PROGRAM INITIALIZING!”

As the words reverberated in the large space, doors on the walls opened, causing more of the orange liquid to come flooding into the room. “Well, it’s a good thing I can swim now!” Sonic said as the liquid began to reach him. “But then again, how do we get out here?”

“Rouge the room’s flooding, how do we get out of here?”

“There should be an opening to a room right above you. That’s where the security door is as well.”

The water quickly filled the room, and Miles and Sonic soon found themselves in a smaller room just as Rouge had said. The two stepped out of the orange liquid and walked to the security door. “This one looks a bit tougher than the others,” Miles said as he examined the door. “Rouge, is there any other way to open this door?”

“It looks like the only switch is somewhere in one of the rooms that just got flooded.”

“Great,” Miles muttered, pulling out the last of their explosives and placing them on the corners of the security door. Stepping back he set them off, but the explosion hardly seemed to weaken the door.

“Alright, my turn,” Sonic said, stepping in front of the door. He began to run in place, building up speed, then crouched into a ball and started charging up a spindash. Eventually he could hardly spin any faster, and Sonic launched himself at the door which buckled and fell forward, revealing a long hallway. Sonic stood up, dusted himself off, and turned around to display the open door with a “Ta-dah!”

“Whatever, let’s just keep moving,” Miles said, brushing past Sonic. Running along the top of the tunnel was a rail, which the two used to slide down the tunnel, launching them unto a platform with a time switch and three Artificial Chaos floating over a gap between them and the next room. While Miles held down the switch, Sonic quickly homing attacked his way across the gap, and eliminated the rest of the enemies, opening a door to the left. As Miles followed they were about to continue, when a familiar voice stopped them.

“You never cease to surprise me, blue hedgehog,” the voice called from behind them. Standing on the edge of a space where Sonic had just destroyed another Artificial Chaos stood a familiar, yet twisted figure. A red and black hedgehog, but much of his body, most obviously his right arm, much of his torso, and the left side of his face around his eye, replaced with cybernetics. But he was still unmistakable as the one who was created on this very ARK to be the Ultimate Life Form.

“Shadow,” Sonic and Miles said in unison.

“I thought that capsule you were in exploded in space,” Shadow said, his deep voice now faintly mechanical.

“You know, what can I say… I die hard!” Sonic replied. “Though you didn’t seem to get off as easy.”

“Yes, I was unfortunately still on the ARK when it crashed, but the good doctor was kind enough to… patch me up. But I do wonder how you managed to survive that explosion.”

“Not sure. Though I think it might have something to do with the Chaos Emerald, and that little trick of yours.”

“But there’s no way you could have activated the Chaos Control using an Emerald that was fake. Just what are you anyway?”

“What you see is what you get. Just a guy that loves adventure. I’m Sonic the Hedgehog!”

“I see. But you know, I can’t let you live,” Shadow said, getting into a fighting stance. “Your adventuring days, and this resistance of yours, are coming to an end!”

———————————————————————————————————————

Previous Chapter.

Index.

Next Chapter.

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