Shaded Past.

Shade moved stealthily through the jungle. While Knuckles, having lived on the island all his life, used secret passages and knowledge of the geography to his advantage, Shade had been trained in espionage tactics and silent strikes. And while some may have based this skill on Nocturnus technology, the truth of the matter was that she was still a trained soldier. And one with, technically speaking, over four thousand years of experience. She moved swiftly through the foliage, stepping smoothly between the low growing vines. She was nearing the Sandopolis border, and the trees were growing shorter, but still just as tightly packed. The sun was growing brighter as the jungle cleared and she stepped onto hard, sandy ground.

The sands of Sandopolis were painted a deep red by the rising sun. Though during the day it was dry, hot, and almost too bright to stand, in these early morning hours the cool of night still hung in the air, and light dew covered the ground. It was at this time that most creatures were active, before the desert became an oven. As Shade walked across the sand, small creatures darted back and forth, preparing for the day. As she neared a small oasis, a trio of light blue Chao toddled up to her.

“Hello little one,” Shade said, keeling down to pet one of them. Even with all the troubles the island had encountered, the Chao continued to live happily in their small, concealed gardens. Of course, even since ancient times, they have had difficult lives. But still they persevered. Shade stood up, and the Chao ran off towards the oasis, where its friends already were. Surrounding it were trees bearing the very fruit Shade was looking for. The chao flew up to them, grabbed the fruit, and walked back. Shade watched as they disappeared into the jungle, then walked up to the oasis. She stood for a while at the edge of the trees, looking over the area. This was obviously a deep oasis, judging by the number of trees that lined its fertile waters. Shade bent down and ran her fingers through the water. It felt cool and refreshing, and got Shade thinking. “I really haven’t bathed properly in quite a while, and a nice cool dip in the water feels good right about now,” she said to herself.

Shade leaned back from the water, removing her boots and setting them next to a tree, along with the sack she’d brought to carry supplies. She stood up and stripped off her shorts and top, dropping them in a pile beside her boots, and laying her bracelets on top of them. She stepped lightly to the water’s edge, and then dove in. The cool blast of water rushed to meet her as her streamlined body shot through it. Ripples spread out from where she’d entered, but there had been hardly a splash. She floated under the surface for a moment, enjoying the feeling of floating freely as the water soaked her light orange fur. She turned towards the surface as burst out of the water, taking in a deep breath. She treaded water for a while, her long dreadlock spines drifting around behind her, before swimming to the opposite end of the oasis. She turned around as she reached the sandy shore and pulled herself up slightly, resting her elbows on the sand to keep her in place. As she lay there relaxing, she looked up to the high mountains in the distance, marveling at their beauty, lone marred by invaders, and wondered how more beautiful they must have been in the years before she had arrived.

* * * * *

They had said it would be a routine mission. And everyone believed them. It was simple for the same soldiers who had helped to conquer countless peoples. Just get on the island, retrieve the Emerald, and get out. Simple. At least, that’s what Shade and her unit were thinking as they warped onto Angel Island. They had chosen a location close to the edge of the island, just to be on the safe side. However, the Nocturnus soldiers highly doubted that the single Knuckles Clan survivor guarding the island could stop them. However, they hadn’t anticipated that for the past few years a different presence had occupied the island. Still, they moved on through the jungle, confident that they would emerge victorious.

The Nocturnus Clan of echidnas. An ancient, mysterious nation, that completely disappeared off the face of the planet over 4000 years ago, soon after the demise of their enemy clan the Knuckles Tribe at the hands of Chaos. History never showed how they had disappeared, and where they went. At least, no history still on the planet. Because on that day, know to them as the Argus Event. It was named such after a strange word that all the Nocturnus heard after they were ripped into a strange dimension known as the Twilight Cage, where time passed differently than in their home dimension. So while 4000 years passed by, only a few years went by in the Twilight Cage. Still, in that time the Nocturnus took over the other denizens of the Twilight Cage, led by their ruler, Lord Ix. The other races were no match for the Nocturnus’ advanced technology and fighting skill, and fell to their might quickly. Now, Ix wanted to gain freedom from the Twilight Cage for his people, and his own motives of conquering the world.

Their plans of escape were also simple. Scouting missions had reported that all seven of the Chaos Emeralds were together in one location, while the Master Emerald was located farther away, on the floating Angel Island. So, Ix himself took the majority of the army with him to take the Chaos Emeralds from where they were hidden, while a smaller squad led by Shade would acquire the Master Emerald. Quick, effective, and they’d be out of the Twilight Cage in no time. And so, Shade’s unit moved through the trees. She had a Chaos Energy tracking device with her, and it was guiding their direction through the jungle, heading deeper into the island. The trees were beginning to thin, and they soon could see that they were nearing a grassy valley at the edge of a mountain.

Suddenly, a rustling noise was heard. Shade held up her hand, ordering the soldiers to stop. They looked around, but could not find the source of the noise. Shade then gave more hand signals, commanding the soldiers. Two, carrying large blasters, moved to the edge of the trees and hid themselves, quickly followed by more, the groups dividing up on either side of a break in the tree line. Shade checked the scanner. They were nearing the Emerald; it was located somewhere in the deep part of the mountains. But something else worried her. Her radar was picking up strange signals in addition to the Chaos Energy. It almost seemed like it was coming from something of a robotic nature. But she thought there must be something wrong, there couldn’t be robots up on this island. She motioned for the troops to move forward, while behind them a figure was hidden in the trees, watching them.

The reached the edge of the mountain and saw that there was large ravine, that didn’t appear to be natural. Once again, Shade became suspicious that something wasn’t right. Still, this was where the tracker showed the Master Emerald to be, and so they continued forward, slowly. Something flew past them, and a soldier pulled out a blaster and immediately shot it down. “Hold your fire soldier, do you want to give away our position!” Shade said. She walked over to the remains of whatever had just flown by. The burning, metallic remains. “So it is a robot. Very well then, it would seem we have a new threat to deal with. No matter, we shall dispose of them just as easily. Let’s move,” she commanded, walking to the front of the squad.

They soon reached the edge of the ravine, which opened into a large valley deep in the center of the mountains. Shade had a strange feeling they were being followed, but ignored it. She selected two foot soldiers to go scout ahead, and they soon returned with somewhat disheartening news. “We did not locate the target itself. However there seems to be a large military base, though it seemed to be a military base.”

“That does not seem right. The initial scouts said they had only seen the one Knuckles echidna on the island. Then what could this city be?”

“Also, something else was odd. There seemed to only be robots within it.”

“More robots? Whoever this is they must have highly advanced technology. Alright men, here is the strategy.” Shade delivered her plan of attack to the squad. They all got to their positions, and the attack was launched. They swarmed out of the ravine, quickly assaulting the nearest building, destroying it before moving to the next, constantly on the lookout for the Master Emerald. Up on the side of the mountains, a red figure was watching them.

“I can’t believe it. These people, whoever they are, might actually drive off Robotnik’s forces. Of course, I will have to stop them once they get my emerald back,” Knuckles said as he looked down at them. It hadn’t taken long for the bases forces to come out to meet the Nocturnus, a small army of shining silver robots, each equipped with a deadly weapon. Overhead flying robots shot out of concealed factories in the mountainsides, and cannons turned to face the intruders. Obviously, they’d underestimated the strength of their enemy. “Uh oh, they might need some help.” Knuckles jumped off from his roost and glided over to the nearest opening in the mountainside. He climbed to the top of the door and slammed his fist into the rock, causing the artificial cave to collapse. A cannon turned towards him, but he jumped out of the way and quickly glided over to it and destroyed it.

Meanwhile, down in the valley, the Nocturnus weren’t faring well. The robots were surrounding them and driving them back to the ravine. Slowly, Shade watched as her comrades fell one after another. Knuckles saw them being routed, and swooped down towards the mob. Shade tried her best to fight off the robots, but she was soon overpowered, left alone. All around her, the bodies of her allies were strewn about, dead. And she would be next. She was thrown to the ground, and looked up as a robot, with its cold, uncaring face, raised its gun arm to her head. “So this is the end. At least I will die in my home world, and not in that cursed Cage. I’m sorry I failed you, Lord Ix,” she said to herself. However, death did not come, for her at least. A red blur came down from above and smashed the robot. Shade looked to her savior, and soon realized he was the echidna. He began to smash through the rest of the surrounding robots, clearing their area before turning to Shade.

“Hey, are you okay?” he said, helping her to her feet. “Well, anyway, let’s hurry up, I need to get you out of…” he was cut off as a laser blast caught the side of his face. He fell to the ground, his hands held against his right eye. Shade quickly ran to his side and picked him up, which proved harder than she’d though, and threw up her cloaking device.

‘I’m a fool that I didn’t think of this sooner!’ she thought. The robots were momentarily confused as she disappeared, and she managed to escape into the ravine while they sorted out which visual frequency to use. Shade kept running, carrying the bleeding Knuckles over her shoulder. “What is your name, Knuckles Clan echidna?”

“It’s Knuckles,” he said through clenched teeth. “And you are?”

“Shade, of the Nocturnus Clan,” she responded quickly. Knuckles’ eyes opened wide, or at least, they would have, had one of them not been injured and he hadn’t also just passed out from pain and shock.

Later, he awoke with a start. His hand flew to his face, and he found that it was bandaged up. He looked around with his good eye, getting a bearing of his surroundings. He was obviously in a cave, with light coming from somewhere. At first he didn’t know how he got there, and then he remembered. “Shade! That woman said she was of the Nocturnus!” he yelled suddenly. He thought for a moment. “But that can’t be right, they disappeared years ago.”

“Not exactly,” Shade said as from behind Knuckles. He turned to see her sitting on a rock, a small cube that was emitting bright light sitting next to her. “Before you say anything, allow me to explain the situation.” She then went on to explain how the Nocturnus had been taken from this world into the Twilight Cage, and all that had happened there. How Ix had formulated a plan to escape, and the reason she had come to the island. “Unfortunately we hadn’t anticipated such a strong military presence here.”

“Yes, it was almost four, maybe five, years ago. They came to the island. I tried to fight them off, but they kept coming back stronger, and soon Robotnik, the Eggman Empire, and Metal Knuckles had taken over the island, and the Master Emerald. I’ve been in hiding since, fighting them whenever I can.” Knuckles paused for a moment, as silence settled over the cage. “But hey, at least now I have company, right?”

“Yes, I suppose you do,” Shade said. Still, their relationship wasn’t easy. Shade still held some feelings of animosity towards Knuckles because of his clan. Though these soon faded as she got to know him better as she helped him heal. At the same time, Knuckles was apprehensive of Shade, since for a long time she was still intent on completing her mission some how. Yet time went on, and she never received any sort of communication from the other Nocturnus, and they never answered her. Soon it seemed to both of them, that they were the last echidnas alive, and the only ones who could free Angel Island.

* * * * *

Shade opened her eyes, leaving the world of her memories. “But there’s no time to think about the past when there’s the present to worry about.” She slid back under the water and swam back to the other side of the oasis. She climbed out of the water, and paused to strain some water from her spines before moving to one of the fruit trees. She began to fill the brown sack she’d brought with, allowing the now more fully risen sun to dry off her fur. After filling about a quarter of the bag, leaving space for other supplies, she walked back to where she’d placed her clothes and put them back on. As she pulled on her shirt, she glanced at her belly. Placing a hand on it, she smiled. “I guess today’s the day I tell him,” she said softly as she picked up the bag and headed back to the jungle.

A few hours later, she arrived back at the cave, supplies in tow. “Knuckles, are you here?” she asked as she stepped into the cave. There was no answer. “I guess not.” She walked over to the large outcropping of rock on the wall that served as a counter and set the bag down. She began to pull out the items she had been retrieving, such as food, wood, and medicinal plants, and put them in their respective locations. She then poured out the fruit, piling them together into, well, a pile. Shade then looked around for something she could use to write with, and found some birch tree bark and coal. She quickly wrote down a note for Knuckles, detailing that she planned to explore the Sandopolis area and would likely return some time around noon. She paused after this, then wrote a closing paragraph about the news that she had to tell him. Smiling, she set down the “pen and paper”, grabbed one of the strange dry looking fruit, and left the cave again.

Shade reached Sandopolis quickly, and began to head towards the oasis. It was an easily visible landmark of the area, and it would serve as a good location to map the area around. So far she hadn’t met any robotic resistance whatsoever, which meant one of two things. Either they weren’t patrolling this area, or, more likely, they had an ambush planned. She proceeded with caution. As she neared the oasis, a sound caught her ear. There was slight humming, like an engine, and the sound of something light moving through the sand. She spun around, activating her Leech Blades in the nick of time as a circular white robot rolled by her. It began to transform to a walking form, brandishing a high power laser weapon.

“WE HAVE BEEN ORDERED TO RETRIEVE YOU. COME PEACEFULLY OR WE WILL USE FORCE,” the robot said. When it said “we” she turned and spotted the robots partner, a flying version of the same model.

“I highly doubt that whoever your commander is would be as peaceful if I did go with you,” Shade said, lowering into a fighting stance.

“FINAL WARNING ORGANIC. COME WITH US PEACFULLY.”

“As I said, that isn’t going to happen.” Shade dashed at the ground robot, dodging to the side as it fired its gun. She slashed off its gun arm, but couldn’t finish it off before the flying robot swooped down and knocked her to the ground. She rolled to her feet quickly as the flying robot fired his blaster. Sand shot into the air, but Shade had dodged the blast easily.

“TRAGET PROVING HARDER TO NEUTRALIZE THAN CALCULATED. CALLING REINFORCEMENTS,” The ground robot said. She ran towards him and slashed him in half, jumping away as the robot exploded. However it was too late, as the call had already been sent. Suddenly the ground began to rumble, and Shade jumped back just in time as a giant robotic claw shot out of the sand. She watched as a monstrous robot rose out of the sand. It had a yellow colored armor, causing it to blend almost perfectly with the sand, and it had the shape of a scorpion. No doubt there was probably one powering it. Its pincers were lined with spikes, and its tail, composed of a series of strange floating orbs, ended in a horridly spiked maul.

Shade looked at it in awe. “This certainly adds a new challenge. No matter, I’ve fought worse than this.” She charged the giant robot, and it thrust one of its pincer arms towards her. She jumped, and landed on its claw, running up the long arm. The flying robot swooped down towards her, as she’d anticipated, firing its blaster with more rapid, smaller shots. She extended one of her Leech Blades into a shield like form to block them, then slashed the robot down the middle. It exploded, and Shade continued to run towards the top of the scorpion robot. What she didn’t anticipate was that it was also carrying more troops on its back. Smaller versions of the robot, their tails carrying blasters instead of spikes, rushed forward to meet her, firing their blasters. She dodged them as best she could, but got knocked back by a blast to the shoulder. She proceeded forward, unleashing a large amount of energy through one of her bracelets, firing an energy beam at the smaller robots. She quickly destroyed them. However, a remaining laser bullet from the swarm caught her wrist, knocking off her bracelet. As the pain began to course through her wrist, the pain in her shoulder that she had ignored also caught up to her. Suddenly, she felt dizzy, but not from the pain. “They… must have… poisoned me… some… how,” she said slowly as the world swirled around her. She fell off the large robot’s arm, but he caught her on the inside of his claw, which he shut around. Her.

“TRAGET NEUTRALIZED, RETURNING TO BASE,” was the message the robot sent, though the unit itself lacked any vocal mechanics. The message returned however as from a robot who did, and one with more personality than the units he commanded.

“Well done soldier. Now that we have captured the female echidna, that fool should fall quickly into our hands, along with the rest of this island he so feebly protects,” the message, broadcast to all units, said. “I should know, I was build on his data after all.” High in the mountains, Metal Knuckles’ electronic voice rang out with terrifyingly natural laughter, which sounded naturally evil.

——————————————————————————————————————-

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Index.

Next Chapter.

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