Knuckles scanned the vast army in front of him. No doubt even more dangerous enemies were hidden throughout its ranks, as if the Artificial Chaos weren’t enough. He was facing straight on towards the tower, but the giant guard robot would prove hard to get past. His other option was to try and get around to the side and climb up there, but it would take longer and be more tiring. And Knuckles didn’t have the time, and he would need the strength for the real battle soon to come. He decided to use the tried and true strategy of charging straight into battle.
The first robot sparked and exploded as Knuckles bashed its head off. The rain was falling heavier now, and while the fiery explosions were lessened, the electricity clearly arched through the air like lightning. The laser gunner fell, and Knuckles slammed his fist through another’s chest and spun around to kick another to the ground. The others fired at him, but he charged forward, the lasers shooting past him. A blue fist rocketed towards him, and he ducked as the Artificial Chaos’ arm extended past him. Knuckles grabbed onto it, and the Artificial dragged him towards it. When Knuckles closed in on it he let go and uppercut the Artificial Chaos in the face, destroying its robotic core. He jumped over another and bashed its head in, instantly crouching to dodge an attack from two more. He planted his feet firmly, grabbed onto their arms, and pulled against them as they retracted their arms back. They lost their footing and collided into each other. Knuckles spun them around and threw them into the army, mowing down a group of laser gunners. He ran through the passageway he had created, sliding on the wet ground. He skidded under a laser gunner, grabbing its legs and pulling it to the ground. As he slowed, Knuckles bent back and vaulted himself off his back, kicking two more laser gunners in the chest. He got to his feet and ran on.
Knuckles twisted to the side to dodge a punch, ducking to avoid the next attack. He swung his leg out, tripping an Artificial Chaos, then jumped up and punched another in the face. He ran over the first, crushing its head, then leapt in the air, kicking a laser gunner’s head off. The head flew forwards, destroying another laser gunner, and Knuckles landed on his feet with a spinning kick into an Artificial Chaos. He charged forward and slammed into another, pushing it back into two more Artificials before slamming them all to the ground. He got knocked back by a punch from an Artificial to his left, but he recovered and caught its next punch. He pulled the Artificial by the arm and launched it into the air. It collided with the army, smashing a small group of its comrades. Knuckles ran forward, spinning around a laser gunner. He shoved it to the ground as he continued to run forward. No more time could be wasted with this mob, he had bigger bots to bash.
Weaving left and right, Knuckles dashed through the swarm. He jumped over an Artificial Chaos, but it caught him and slammed him to the ground. Knuckles rolled to the side as another threw a punch at him. The Artificial’s hand smashed the concrete as Knuckles jumped up, smashing the Artificial Chaos that had caught him. He ran forward, diving between two laser gunners as they prepared to fire. They shot each other, the explosion causing the rain around them to turn into steam. Knuckles dashed low to the ground while his enemies were disoriented. He uppercut another Artificial Chaos as he neared the tower. Knuckles let his fists fly as he pulverized his way through till he reached the giant guard mech. The other robots backed off as it prepared to attack. It was heavily armored and armed to the teeth. Each arm bore a massive mini-gun, a high powered laser blaster, and rocket launchers on the shoulders. Within the monstrosity were two laser cannons that extended out of the back over the shoulder, multiple grenade launchers built into the back, jet boosters in the feet, machine guns in the front lower leg, a plasma sword, and finally a massively destructive energy blast that was launched from the core of the machine.
Knuckles simply looked up to the beast as it aimed its mini-guns at him. He smirked as the barrels began to rotate. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Knuckles charged the robot as it fired at him. Heavy bullets blasted holes in the ground, shooting up dust into the air. Knuckles dashed from the side to side, dodging the streams of bullets. The robot was powerful, but slow and bulky. It couldn’t keep up with him without likely shooting itself. The machine guns in the legs began to fire, forcing Knuckles’ path to become narrower. Rockets shot off and streaked through the air towards the ground as the machine guns ceased fire. Knuckles jumped back as the first hit the ground and exploded. He continued to jump from side to side, buffeted by the shockwaves but maintaining control. The mini-guns clicked as they ran out of ammo, and Knuckles stopped. The robot switched to its laser blasters, and Knuckles ran forward again. However, he hadn’t anticipated the increase in the giant’s speed. He was blasted back as lasers exploded all around him. He tried to dodge, but to no success. A blast hit the ground right in front of him, and he was thrown into the air. Knuckles flew back a few yards before landing on the destroyed road.
The robot pulled its arms back as its lasers began to overheat. Knuckles strained to look up as the robot’s wrist opened and a rod shot out. The robot caught it, and the top of the pole split in half and folded outward. It began to glow, and a blade of energy soon extended outward. Knuckles got to his feet as the robot grasped the sword with both hands. It raised its arms up, and Knuckles charged. The robot swung downward, the blade streaking through the air with its incredible heat. It collided into the ground, smashing what remained of the concrete road to nothingness. As the smoke cleared, Knuckles was nowhere to be seen. However, he wasn’t defeated. He was climbing up the robot’s arm. Knuckles quickly made his way to the robots should before it could pull away from the ground. He jumped onto its head, and positioned himself in the center. Mustering all his strength, Knuckles slammed his fist into the robot. A crack appeared, small at first, but it quickly extended straight down the center of the giant. Knuckles jumped to the side of the tower as the guard exploded. He began to climb.
“Well, isn’t this a pleasant surprise,” Metal Knuckles said as Knuckles jumped onto the roof. Its flat, shining metal roof was slicked by the rain, reflecting the coursing lightning now even closer to the echidna and his copy than it already was. One of the many troubles of being on a floating island in a thunderstorm. But Knuckles’ eyes were focused on a single structure behind Metal Knuckles. It looked remarkably similar to the ancient ruins he had protected for the majority of his life, but instead of weathered stones it was cold metal. And on pillars like the ones where seven emeralds had rested in ancient days, there were energy harvesters, gathering power from the glowing green gem that stood in the altar in the middle. The Master Emerald shone in all its usual brightness, filling the air with its mystic light and empowering its Guardian. “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t make it,” Metal Knuckles finished.
“Why? Worried you’d have to face me yourself?” Knuckles said, staring down his doppelganger.
“Actually, quite the opposite. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to destroy you personally.”
“Then keep dreaming Metal, because you’re the one who’s going to be destroyed!” Knuckles yelled. He ran forward, and was about to swing a fist for Metal’s face when he noticed the robot wasn’t moving at all. He stopped inches from his opponent.
“Don’t be so hasty. After all, aren’t you concerned about my other guest?” Metal Knuckles snapped his fingers, and a strange flat machine came out from behind the Master Emerald shrine. It tilted up to show the one it carried. Strapped to the platform was Shade, battered and beaten.
“Shade!” Knuckles yelled, running towards her.
“Knuckles, get away! It’s a trap!” Shade called back, but it was too late. Metal Knuckles dashed in front of Knuckles, slamming him to the ground.
“She’s right. And you shouldn’t just worry about me, she has her own problems to deal with.”
“What do you mean?” Knuckles asked as he stood up.
“Do you think she’s strapped to that machine just to hold her? No, that is just a bit of insurance. One wrong move… and she will be electrocuted.”
“And no doubt this heavy rain will only make her all the more conductive. That is, if I have to use the machine.”
“You monster!” Knuckles yelled, but he didn’t move.
“Monster?” Metal Knuckles questioned. “I am just a machine, it’s in my programming. And my creator just happened to program me with some personality drives. Though they have become more advanced over the years of defeating you.”
“Well that ends today!”
“That is true. After all, today you die. And you won’t be coming back.” Metal Knuckles began to hover above the ground, then blasted forward. He slammed headfirst into Knuckles, throwing him to the ground again. He turned and slammed his elbow into the roof, but Knuckles rolled out of the way. Metal spun around and kicked Knuckles in the stomach, then dashed around to punch him in the back. As Knuckles fell forward, Metal uppercut him, then roundhouse kicked him into the metal ground. As Knuckles lay there bleeding, Metal leaned in close to his ear. “You will die, she will die, everyone will die.”
Knuckles pulled his head up and looked at Metal Knuckles. “Those weird buildings?”
“So you saw them. The latest step in the Emperor’s plan. This island is an aerial attack base, and what’s one of the best air based weapons?”
“Exactly.” Metal Knuckles kicked Knuckles in the stomach, sending him rolling along the roof. He stopped and bent over, holding grasping his stomach with both hands.
“Knuckles, don’t give in! Even if you die, he’ll still kill me! Don’t let them destroy the world next!” Shade screamed.
“Silence!” Metal Knuckles yelled. The machine powered up and electricity began to course through Shade’s body. She arched her back, screeching in pain, trying desperately to get free. But there was no hope. Her body fell limp, her breathing ragged, as Metal Knuckles stopped the machine. “That should keep you quiet for a while.” He turned back to Knuckles, who was still bent over. Unseen to the seemingly triumphant robot, Knuckles was removing the Leech Blade from his wrist. “She is right. We’re going to use those missiles to demolish what’s left of those who resist the Empire. They haven’t been a problem, but the Emperor has decided it’s time to finish them off. But first we need to get rid of you.”
“Well it’s not going to be as easy as you think!” Knuckles said, suddenly flinging his arm out towards Shade. A silver and pink bracelet flew from his hand. Shade caught it and activated its weapon. With a quick slash she had freed herself from the machine’s clutches. She snapped the weapon on to her wrist and charged Metal Knuckles. The robot turned to face her as she made a horizontal slash with the blade. He ducked, throwing a punch for her stomach. She twisted around and elbowed the back of Metal Knuckles’ head. He dipped forward, but pulled back up and swung his leg around. Shade blocked the kick with the side of her arm. She grabbed Metal’s leg and slammed him to the ground. Shade jumped back as Metal got to his feet.
Shade gasped for breath. She was wounded greatly, her body scorched and unresponsive from the electricity and numbing rain. Knuckles ran for Metal while his back was turned, but the robot detected his approach and turned around. He caught Knuckles with two quick jabs before kicking him to the ground. Metal turned back to Shade as she tried the same, slashing up with the Leech Blade. Metal Knuckles jumped back and the trailing edge of the energy scratched his chest plate. While the Leech Blade was designed to suck life from the victim and healed the wielder, there was no life to be given to Shade. She faced on a cold-wired machine. Metal Knuckles blasted forward, catching Shade’s arm as she slashed again. He flicked his fingers around the Leech Blade bracelet, causing it to fall to the ground. If Metal Knuckles had a face capable of emotion, it would no doubt be twisted in a demented smirk. He grasped Shade’s wrist, crushing it until the bones snapped. She yelled in pain, but her cries were cut short as Metal Knuckles thrust his other arm upwards. With a horrifying sound, Metal tore through Shade’s body with his claws, his arm shooting straight out her back.. She fell completely limp as life left her. Metal Knuckles threw her to the ground, blood pooling around her body only to be washed away by the rain. Metal Knuckles spread his fingers out, watching as the blood slid from the gleaming metal. “Now, back to you…”
Metal Knuckles turned to where Knuckles was previously, only to find that he was gone. He turned just in time to meet Knuckles’ fist as it collided with his face. Metal stumbled sideways, and Knuckles continued his assault. He launched an onslaught of uppercuts, hooks, and jabs, hitting Metal back further and further. Not even the killer robot could keep up with Knuckles raw fury, as hit after hit pounded his metal frame, inching him ever closer to the edge of the roof. The gloves on Knuckles’ hands stressed against his clenched fists, the stitching wearing away. As the impact of his fists on the metal of his enemy coursed through his body, Knuckles continued to beat Metal towards the drop. Finally Knuckles stopped the punches, only to deliver a kick to Metal Knuckles’ stomach, sending him falling off the building. However, Metal simply engaged his flight boosters, shooting up to the roof and throwing Knuckles back. Metal Knuckles dashed towards him, fists flying. Knuckles ducked in between the robot’s clawed fists, blocking attacks and countering. The two fought evenly matched, hardly moving from the single spot. However Metal Knuckles soon managed to land a punch to Knuckles’ gut, and the echidna bent back, allowing Metal to throw him to the ground. He walked over to him, raising both arms for the final strike. He came down with his fists at Knuckles’ unmoving body, but did not get the satisfaction of finally finishing off his original.
Knuckles bolted up and caught Metal’s hands. He pushed against the power of the robot, forcing Metal Knuckles away from himself. As he grasped Metal’s hands tighter, Knuckles looked at him. The flames of vengeance burned so brightly in his eyes that it was almost as if they would burst out and engulf him. In a sense, they already had. “You really shouldn’t have done that, Metal Knuckles,” Knuckles said calmly but fiercely. “Now, there’s no holding back.” Knuckles threw his metal self off, kicking him in the face. “Now, you’re going to die!”