Knuckles let out the last breath of his roar, bending forward, his face to the ground. He slowly breathed in and out, his harsh exhaling sending the newly settling sand swirling around his face. He placed one hand on his knee, bracing himself as he slowly stood up. His face was still turned towards the ground, his fists clasped tightly. The fabric of his gloves began to tear as his knuckle spurs pushed forward. Knuckles’ face was shrouded by his long dreads which hung down in front of it. He slowly pulled up his right hand, unfolding his fingers to reveal Shade’s bracelet. He grabbed it between his thumb and forefinger, and held it up to his face. He then reached down to his left arm, and snapped the bracelet onto his wrist. He flicked his head up, his dreads flying back to reveal the hard look of determination on his face. It was a face cold and ruthless, set only on one goal: revenge. Knuckles looked towards the mountains. They were a mix of deep red volcanic rock and ice covered peaks in the center. At least, that’s what would be seen, if not for the Eggman Empire. All over the mountain sides they had built gun turrets, factories, and power plants. And wherever there wasn’t a building serving some purpose, they had simply covered up nature with more cold metal. “Ten years,” Knuckles said slowly. “Now, I‘ll finally do what must be done to save my home…” He ran across the sands towards the mountains, where his final battle would soon begin.
* * * * *
The young fox looked over the city, or at least, what was left of it. What had once been a sprawling metropolis, had quickly been destroyed. If something hadn’t been obliterated by the first disaster, it had surely been decimated by the second. And the rare buildings that survived these were likely burning down to their foundations. “This can‘t be happening… why did this have to happen?” He never got his answer, before he was rushed away from the scene by a pair of military jets.
* * * * *
Miles jolted up in his chair. His eyes darted left and right, scanning his location. He was sitting in his apartment, screwdriver and prototype supercomputer still in his hands. “Must‘ve just fallen asleep,” he checked the time on his clock. “22:37… I should probably get some proper sleep, judging by the last mission I might expect a difficult fight tomorrow.” He set down his work, turning his swivel chair towards his main computer’s keyboard. He opened up his journal file, and entered a new entry;
“6/18, 10th year.
Continued work on new A.I. project. Is advancing well, should be ready for test flight of auto-pilot soon. Preparing for another attack mission tomorrow…”
He paused for a moment, thinking, then continued typing;
“In two days it‘ll be the tenth anniversary of when this world went to hell. Not that it matters anymore, but noting for the sake of history. Who knows, maybe someday I‘ll be able to put an end to this long drawn out battle.”
He hit enter and added the entry to his data base. He reached for the soda can on his desk, but soon found it to be empty. He tossed it into the ever growing pile in the corner of the room. Miles then proceeded to shut down his computer systems for the evening. He made a quick trip to the bathroom, then walked back into the living room. He sat down on the couch, only removing his large combat boots before throwing a thin blanket over himself. He pressed a switch on the wall next to him, and the lights went off. He soon drifted into sleep.
* * * * *
Knuckles barreled through the jungle, crashing, literally, through the trees. With every punch he threw a line of trees fell. Normally he would be wary of causing this much damage to his home, as it would also alert the robots to his coming. But nothing was going to stall him from his mission today. Roots snapped and popped as they were ripped from the earth, bark cracked and all sorts of fruits fell to the ground and smashed open. The mountains were still along ways off in the distance, but they were alight with activity. Already, the various defense turrets were trained in the direction of Knuckles’ carnage, and an alarm was sounded. Knuckles turned to his right as he heard a whirring noise. He jumped into the air just as a flying sentry bot burst from the trees. Knuckles grabbed onto a tree branch and swung around to face the robot as it flew back towards him. Knuckles grabbed it and slammed it to the ground. Its white casing cracked, parts flew away, and its circuitry sparked as Knuckles smashed its “head”. The sound of its comrades could be heard, and Knuckles spun around, sending the robot carcass flying. It crashed into another of its same model just as it burst from the trees. Knuckles charged back into the jungle with more of them hot on his tail. He slammed his fist through a thin, shorter tree, and grabbed its trunk, swinging the tree in a wide arc. He knocked three robots aside, but more were following. And he could see figures moving through the jungle ahead of him. But no matter how many they threw at him, he wouldn’t lose.
* * * * *
The sharp beeping pierced the silent air, filling the small apartment. Miles was instantly awake as his alarm went off, and he pulled himself off the couch. He walked over to his clock and stopped the noise, and stretched. It was 5:00. Time to get moving. Few in the city were up this early, except maybe those who’d already been up all night, or those with jobs that required such an early time to be awake. Miles found it the best time to get out of the city without anyone noticing. He hated being questioned on where he was going, because everyone knew the answer. And he knew what they’d say. They’d talk about how he was suicidal, crazy, or was just planning on leading the Empire straight to their front door. And it was true, the Empire had been spreading its territory towards the fields that Subagri lay under, but it wasn’t like anyone in the city was going to fight it. Defeating the Eggman Empire was the only purpose left in Miles’ life, and even that was beginning to fade away.
Miles sat back down on his couch, putting on his combat boots. He stood up, and grabbed his long overcoat from the hook it was hanging on. He threw it on, making sure the sleeves were well rolled up. Reaching down to the small table he grabbed his guns. He spun them around in his hands a few times before sliding them into their holsters on the inside of his coat. He then removed his electro-katana from its rack, and strapped it across his back. As he walked to the door he ran his fingers through his bangs, smoothing them out away from his eyes, before sliding his goggles onto the top of his head, just below his ears. As he stepped out the door, he put on his sunglasses and turned off the light.
* * * * *
Miles walked into the hanger, the bright ceiling lights activating automatically. The entire expanse of the giant room was empty that morning, as it was every morning. And really the entire day. Rarely would someone apart from the fox enter the hanger. No one else really had reason to. Still, today something felt different to Miles as he walked up to where the Tornado was parked. This was the third model of plane bearing that name, though it looked incredibly similar to the second. Still, there were some key differences, not the least of which was that this model also had multiple transformations, including a car and a walker with advanced weaponry. Of course, the plane’s age was beginning to show, and it wasn’t helped at all by the fact that many sections of the Tornado 4 had been salvaged from parts of the original Tornado, which had been wrecked during one of Prower’s earlier adventures. He ran his hand over the side of the cockpit, the tips of his fingers, which stuck through his gloves, carefully avoiding the rust and chipped blue paint, which revealed the red paint job of the original Tornado…
* * * * *
“Why?! Why did he have to go?!” the young fox yelled as he stormed around his workshop. Tears ran from his eyes like a roaring waterfall, staining his fur. He toppled into a standing tool cabinet, sending it crashing to the ground. Metal rang in a deafening cacophony as the tools flew across the hard floor. The young fox’s hand reached out and grasped a large wrench as he turned towards his familiar blue plane. He’d only just finished this latest model before the past days’ events had unfolded. It was perfect, combining the best features of the last models and also adding new features. It was going to help his friend win his fights. But it had failed. He had failed. “Why couldn‘t you have been better?!” the young fox yelled as he swung to wrench at the plane. The cockpit windshield cracked and shattered from the impact. He swung again with more fury, bending the top of the side door down. Again and again he swung, his anger swelling with each strike. No longer was he simply smashing his plane to pieces, as he had another mechanical image in mind. A large section of the left wing was bashed through and fell to the ground. With one last malice filled yell he swung with the wrench, and it became embedded into the side of the plane. He fell backwards, releasing his grip on the wrench. He stumbled back to the wall, crying even more than before. “Why couldn‘t I have been better… why couldn‘t I save him?” He sank down to the floor and bowed his head as a grim silence fell on the room, and only his mourning could be heard.
* * * * *
Miles opened up the storage bay, and threw the burlap sack in. He was about to slam the cover shut again, when he noticed something. The sack seemed bulkier than usual. It hadn’t simply fallen flat around the inside of the chasis. In fact, it looked like it was covering a body. “Hopper, get out. Now,” Miles said.
“Ahh, so you found me. Guess I really should practice more,” the tree-frog said as he stepped out from the storage bay. He landed on the plane’s launch platform next to Miles. “So, off on another raiding mission, eh Miles?”
“Really? Seriously man, I don‘t think you should be doing this,” Hopper said. There was no reply. “Just going out, killing a few ‘bots, and coming back just to mess with their parts doing nothing really? What‘s the point?”
There was a pause before Miles answered. “I have to fight them, cause no one else will.”
“Well, you don‘t seem to be doing much fighting. Think about it this way Miles. So you kill some robots on the outskirts of the city, so what?” Hopper leaned against the Tornado, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “The Empire can replace them in a matter of seconds. They‘ve got practically the entire world‘s resources at their disposal, and whatever they don‘t have they could take whenever they want, the ‘bots and their leader just haven‘t decided to do yet.”
“Exactly. There‘s no resistance force, and the military people here aren‘t fighting. They just protect their little underground city and everyone goes on living ordinary lives, like they don‘t even care of the danger just above them.”
“And what‘s wrong with that? I understand you want to destroy the Empire, I do too. They destroyed my homeland, and most of my people got captured and enslaved. But you‘re going about it the wrong way. The only thing that your methods accomplish is getting more injuries.” Hopper nodded to Miles’ shoulder, then leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “You hardly even get close to the city itself. He would‘ve at least made a move towards their main base long ago…”
Hopper’s next words were cut off by the sound of a clicking gun, and when he opened his eyes he found himself staring down the barrel of one of Miles’ handguns. “Get away from my plane. I have work to do,” he said sternly and with no emotion. Not even anger registered in his tone.
Hopper leaned forward from the T3, putting his hands up. “Come on, you wouldn’t really shoot me? What‘s wrong? Look, if I said somethi…” He stopped as he reenacted the past few minutes in his head. Hiding in plane, getting out, scolding Miles, mentioning… “Oh…”
“Move it. I don‘t want to waste ammo on you.” Miles flicked the gun in a motion to point towards the hanger wall. Hopper didn’t move.
“Okay dude, this seriously has to stop! It‘s been ten years! Either end this long drawn out battle, or just give up and join Robotni…” Hopper’s sentence was cut off once again, but this time from being shot in the chest with a shoulder by Miles’ gun. Blood began to seep out from where the needles had embedded themselves in his smooth skin, but that wasn’t the part that worried him. “Wow… more pissed off than usual I see…” Hopper said before he the electric shock jolted his body. He collapsed on the floor as his muscles spasmed and gave out, but Miles quickly caught him and set him down against the wall.
“Lucky for you I avoided your vital organs. Just remember to watch your tongue once you regain consciousness,” Miles said, his voice still cold as Ice Cap. He holstered his gun, and walked back to the Tornado. He closed the storage bay, then typed in his activation code into the platform’s control panel. It activated and began to move towards the runway. Miles climbed into the cockpit and ran his pre-flight diagnostics. He removed his sunglasses and slid his goggles down over his eyes as a voice recording began to direct him through takeoff. Below him, a small rod connected to each end of his plane. As he powered up his engine, they began to move him along the runway, which slanted up to the surface. Like a catapult, it flung him forth out of the ground and the Tornado’s power kicked in as it continued to ascend into the clouds. They were dark today, but this far from the metropolis the pilot knew they weren’t completely from pollution. “Looks like a storm is coming. I‘ll have to watch out.” He directed his course towards the city.
* * * * *
Knuckles wrenched a guard robot’s gun-arm from its socket. It continued to spray out bullets long enough for Knuckles to destroy its owner. He threw the arm down and flipped over the robot as the rest of its squad entered the clearing. Knuckles hefted the large humanoid robot in the air and threw it at the approaching enemies, smashing them. As he turned once again to run, he felt the air around him becoming hotter. He jumped back just as two horizontal columns of fire rushed towards where he was, combining into a fiery explosion. The trees in front of him were scorched to nothingness, and in the late afternoon sun he could clearly see the source. Two small red robots consisting almost completely of a large circle had been the source of the first flames, the center of their bodies glowing bright red from the flamethrowers that they had just used. But behind them a larger autonamaton was walking forward. It was a giant version of the silver units he’d just destroyed, in all its proportions. It however had red and orange armor covering its shining silver skeleton. Its center plate had the same fan-like flamethrower that the two smaller robots were made of, but on each of its arms was another flamethrower, this one appearing to be much more powerful and streamlined. It was in fact capable of firing a large and widespread blast of flame from its chest just like its smaller comrades, but the two arm blasters could shoot a concentrated flame for a longer period of time and over an even greater distance. And what Knuckles could not see was the short range incendiary bombs the could fire into the air from its back.
Of course, even if he could see them, it still wouldn’t affect his actions. He charged forward as the all three robots fired their fan attack. Knuckles jumped into a still standing tree as the flames converged. He barely had time to dodge as a trio of flying guard robots swooped past him. He ducked down and swung around the tree branch he was perched on. He began to pick up speed as the larger robot directed its main cannons at him, as the two smaller firebots were restricted to the ground. The large robot turned at the torso and Knuckles could see the fire igniting in its “hands”. The white flying robots came in for a second dive attack, and Knuckles released his grip on the branch and flew forward as the large robot fired. It decimated the trio of attackers, and Knuckles landed on the ground. He quickly dispatched one of the small firebots and used its wreckage to destroy the other. He rolled to the side just as he threw it, dodging the laser beam to blasted past him. The ground based cousin of the flying white robots had wheeled in and began firing at him. He ran towards it, only to be cut off by a column of flame. The giant had redirected its blast, and was aiming down at Knuckles now. He jumped backwards, left, and right, dodging the duel blasts of fire, in addition to the laser fire, which had increased now the more of the wheel bots had come in. Flying sentries continued to dash back and forth in the air, waiting for him to take to the trees.
Knuckles was backed to the edge of the burnt out clearing, when he heard the sound of another wheel sentry approaching. He quickly turned around and caught it before it could unroll. He jump to the side as the flames neared him, then into the air. He spun around, then with careful aim, flung the robot, which was just as big as him. It twisted through the air and took out its comrades on the ground as it circled the clearing. Finally it smashed into the giant flame robot’s right arm. It knocked the arm to the side, and the column of flame shot across the robots body and destroyed the left arm. Knuckles glided away just as the flames reached him, though he could feel the backs of his spines being singed. The giant robot had deactivated its right cannon for a brief moment to cool while it located Knuckles. It power up again as it found the echidna, but that split second was all the skilled martial artist needed. He jumped into the air and flipped onto the robot’s arm. He ran up it and reached its head. Positioning himself carefully, he slammed his fist into its head with incredibly force. The head dented into the body, and sparks began to circle around Knuckles’ hand as cracks appeared in the robot’s body. Knuckles jumped off just as it exploded. Unfortunately, this had the unwanted effect of also shooting off all of the incendiary bombs, which, in addition to the fire from the battle, quickly set the remaining trees on fire. Soon, the small area of the jungle was ablaze, and the fire was spreading. Elsewhere in the forest, more of the flame bots had been deployed to flush out Knuckles and burn down his main hiding place. But he wasn’t planning on hiding. His only goal was the mountain fortress.
The jungle cleared much quicker than it normally would have, considering it was now almost completely ablaze. From far away, the normally lush green island, long since metallic and fortified and weaponized, would have appeared to be completely engulfed in flames. And in a sense it was. The flames of the Eggman Empire, of its Emperor’s evil ambitions, of Metal Knuckles’ mockery, and of the Guardian’s vengeance. All of them converged on Angel Island, in the final battle for supremacy. High in the command center of the mountains, Metal Knuckles watched everything play out on the monitors surrounding him. Three high pitch beeps sound, signifying an incoming message. Metal Knuckles bowed as the video screen popped up. “Greetings, Emperor Robotnik,” the robot said to its creator.
“You may rise Metal Knuckles. How goes my plan?” the figure on the screen asked.
“Everything is going exactly as you predicted, the echidna has fallen for the trap,” Metal Knuckles said as he stood up. Just then another beeping was heard, as a message from the surveillance robots came in.
“SURVEILLANCE UNIT ES-0293 REPORTING. ECHIDNA IS APPROACHING FIRST RAVINE GATE.”
“What?” Metal Knuckles said. He quickly looked over the screens. Sure enough, Knuckles was making quick headway towards the mountains.
“I would expect this from him,” the Emperor said. “But, even if he should get through I trust that you can take care of it Metal Knuckles. You‘re the most advanced robot of your line, and you have our best bargaining chip ever. I leave it all to you. I trust you won’t fail me.” With that, the message screen closed, and soon faded away.
Metal Knuckles stood still for a moment. If he’d had a brain, it would be swirling with thoughts right now. However, in his organized CPU, only one line of data was processing. He must be victorious. With a mental smirk, he turned around to his prisoner behind him. “We had best be heading outside. A guest is coming whom I‘m sure you can‘t wait to see.”