Beneath the Ashes.

“What? They actually made it in?” Metal Knuckles stabbed the screen he was watching, his knuckle spikes sparking from the electricity. “Very well then. Switching operation from defense to offense. They want a fight, they’ll get one!” Metal Knuckles turned and set off for the center of the base, issuing orders.

* * * * *

“So, this is the prototype model.” Shadow said, looking at the pair of new soldiers standing in front of him. “Well, they do certainly look impressive. Good find Metal Sonic. Position them around the island as you see fit.”

“Yes sir. Alright, you heard him, move out!” Metal Sonic dashed out of the throne room, the soldiers following.

* * * * *

“Okay guys, we may be in the base, but we still have to be careful. There could be some robots in here…” Knuckles said, almost to himself, as they ran through the winding passages of the burning fortress.

“Um, Knuckles?” Sonic’s voice came, but Knuckles didn’t pay him much attention.

“… and of course the robots from outside might come in here, in which case we’d have to deal with that…”

“Knuckles?” Tails’ voice also said, but with more urgency.

“But no matter what, I’m gonna get that metal creep.”

“Yo! Knucklehead! Turn around!” Sonic yelled this time. Knuckles pulled up, a look of anger on his face until he saw why he had to stop.

“Next time you’re worrying about attacks, watch out for them!” Sonic said as he jumped above two charging robots. The robots collided and exploded, as Sonic landed back on the ground.

Knuckles by now had run over, and taken out the majority of the robots surrounding Sonic and Tails. “Just run! They shouldn’t be able to keep up that long!” He yelled, and the three were able to travel mostly undisturbed.

But the robots behind them weren’t the only problem. Some were still stationed at various points along their path. Their path, which was also another problem, considering the vastness of the base and the fact that everything looked almost exactly the same. Needless to say they got lost more than once.

The base also sometimes seemed like it was comprised entirely of rails and pipes. Sonic had no problem grinding along these, but Knuckles and Tails this was harder. That coupled with the lava they would inevitably fall into if they fell off the rail, the numerous security lasers, and the occasional straight path of lava between two walls, made this one of the harder bases to break in to.

“Man, you’d have to be one of Eggman’s robots to get through here!” Sonic said as Tails let go of him after flying over more lava.

“That’s probably the idea.” Knuckles said as he climbed up over the wall. “But I can tell we’re getting closer. I can sense the Master Emerald shards.” Knuckles ran along the path they were on. “Let’s go!” He yelled back, and Sonic and Tails quickly followed.

* * * * *

“So, they’re almost here.” Metal Knuckles said as he stood in the large room where he was waiting. He was tracking the trio’s movement with his Emerald scanner. “Perfect. Get ready original. You’re in for the fight of your life.”

* * * * *

“Well, this should be it.” Knuckles said, looking at the door in front of them. Though it wasn’t so much of a door, as a hatch. And it wasn’t exactly in front of them, but more at an angle to the ground.

“You sure? Looks like a garbage chute to me.” Sonic said questioningly.

“Positive. I can sense the Master Emerald’s power at wherever this leads, and I can just tell.” Knuckles then placed one hand on the side of the hatch, and with a full force punch, hit the top of the hatch. It buckled inward, and Knuckles grabbed onto the side and ripped it off with a fury, revealing the entrance to a deeply slanted tunnel.

“After you.” Sonic said, motioning to it. Knuckles merely glared at him for a moment before jumping in. Sonic and Tails soon followed suit.

* * * * *

“Metal Sonic.” Shadow called, as he paced in front of his throne, red cape swirling as he turned.

“Yes sir?”

“Tell all available troops to return to this location. If Metal Knuckles fails me again, it’s only a matter of time till they find us here.”

* * * * *

The tunnel was dark and hot. The mostly rough metal rubbed and burned Knuckles as he slid along. He tried getting on his feet, but the tunnel was too narrow to do it for long, and sparks started to fly off of his metal soles. From the sound of things, Sonic and Tails weren’t having a much better time behind him. “Please let this end soon!” Knuckles muttered to himself.

He was answered quickly, though not in a way entirely pleasant in itself. As he saw light a head, he got ready to step out of the tunnel. The only problem, which he soon realized, was that he was still falling and sliding in almost a straight vertical path. He cleared the end of the tunnel, and was immediately faced with the dilemma of trying to land on the area below him, without falling into the lava.

He broke into a glide to slow his fall, and after drifting in the air while circling around his landing area, he dropped out of the glide and fell, landing on his feet, kneeling down. ‘Ahh yeah, that was perfect.’ He smiled to himself.

It didn’t last long however, as Sonic soon came flying out of the tube and landed on top of Knuckles.

“Wooh, what a ride! Hey thanks for breaking my fall, buddy.” Sonic chuckled, tapping his hand on Knuckles’ head.

“Would you please…. get…. OFF!” Knuckles stood up quickly flinging Sonic away. Tails came in flying just in time to hold off any fighting. The three then looked around to get a better sense of their surroundings.

They appeared to be in a large circular room, filled, like much of the base, with lava. There were more platforms like the one they were on, dotted around the area. And all of them, whether by rail or walkways, were all connected to one large central platform, which had a large red furnace like contraption on top of it, similar to other ones they’d noticed throughout the base. And this central platform also had something else.

“Why, original! How nice of you to drop in!” Metal Knuckles called from where he was sitting, atop the furnace.

“Metal-me.” Knuckles said. He then ran forward, jumping off of the edge of platform, he kept running in the air, and hit the ground speeding up the slope as he skid to a stop on the central platform. “Alright, I’ll give you one last chance to do this peacefully. Hand over the emerald shards, now.” Knuckles pointed a fist at his metal counterpart.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Metal said, jumping off of the furnace and landing next to Knuckles. “My primary mission at the moment is to acquire the Master Emerald. And my secondary mission.” He brought his hands up, “cracking” his knuckles. “Is to eliminate you. This way, I can do both.” He then immediately came up with an uppercut, which Knuckles barely dodged, followed by a sharp jab. Knuckles was knocked back, hitting the railing.

“So getting right into it. Alright then, good thing I brought these.” Knuckles pulled out a handful of equipment, which he slid onto his gloves. First were metal coverings on which the spur coverings were longer and more shovel like. And below these were a pair of green and yellow wrist coverings.

Knuckles slammed his fists together, the metal clanging and a small trail of red visible coming off the backs of his gloves. “Let’s do this!” Knuckles ran at Metal, launching a flurry of punches, red smoke trailing as he spun.

“Is this really the best you can do?” Metal mocked him as he dodged the attacks, and then spun around, delivering a crushing roundhouse kick. Knuckles blocked it with the backs of his hands. Metal scraped and against metal for a moment as they pushed against each other, before Metal Knuckles pulled back. Knuckles took the moment to charge forward and deliver a series of blows to Metal Knuckles’ mid section before he was thrown off.

“I’ll admit that was pretty good, but now it’s my turn.” Metal said, charging forward with incredible speed. He caught Knuckles with an uppercut, then whirled around and kicked him hard in the side. He didn’t send Knuckles flying however, and reached up, grabbing him by the neck.

“Knuckles!” Sonic called to his friend as he ran up. But just as he was about to attack, Knuckles stopped him.

“No! This is my fight! You’re staying out of this one.” He coughed. Sonic looked at him for a moment, before stepping back and walking towards the platform he was on earlier.

“Your funeral.” He muttered.

“You certainly do love your honor…” Metal began.

“No enough to sacrifice a perfect moment like this.” Metal barely whipped around as Knuckles hit him in the face. He released Knuckles as he slid back. Knuckles knelt to the ground, gasping for breath, and got up in time to duck an attack by Metal. He went back on his hands, and kicked the metal echidna standing above him. Metal Knuckles flew into the air, and Knuckles jumped up above, getting much higher. He started to rotate, and turned down, drilling into Metal Knuckles. The two collided into the ground, and Knuckles jumped back and watched, ready for whatever might happen.

Metal Knuckles stood up from the rubble dusting himself off. For the most part he only seemed a little battered up, but on closer inspection some cracks in his plating became more visible. “Well, you’re certainly strong, but you don’t look that much better than me.”

It was true. Knuckles certainly looked ragged, his fur ruffled up and markings on his body, most prominent the two cuts on the bottom of his muzzle from where Metal had caught him with an uppercut. Plus, he was slightly gasping for breath.

“Haha, yes, soon you shall fall to my superior robot might.” Metal Knuckles blasted at Knuckles, who was caught off guard and was slammed to the ground a few feet away. As Metal advanced on him he desperately looked for something he could use to hold off the robot. He soon spotted a suitable weapon lying nearby under a cart of flaming coal. ‘Perfect.

“Prepare to die, original!” Metal Knuckles yelled as he picked up speed.

“Not yet I’m not!” He smirked. Just as Metal was about to pounce, Knuckles whipped his arm back to himself, and hit Metal on the head with his new found weapon, stunning him. Knuckles stood up quickly and jumped away, examining his weaponry. “Aww, the thing’s already wrecked. Guess I’m too strong for it.” Knuckles sighed as he threw away the large black shovel.

“You little…” Metal Knuckles grumbled as he clutched his head. “I’m gonna pay you back for that!” Metal ran at Knuckles, launching a series of punches, which Knuckles parried. But he was still getting forced backwards. He soon found himself stepping onto a rail. But Metal didn’t let up and they continued to fight, walking along a thin rail. As they neared the middle, Metal dared to come up with a kick. Knuckles dodged, but was off balance. He started to lean left and right, Metal also slightly off balance. Knuckles began to fall, but not before grabbing onto Metal’s leg. The two tumbled in between the two rails.

Knuckles had the upper hand, and shoved Metal into the wall as they fell. There was a screech like nails on a chalkboard as Metal grinded against the wall, sparks flying everywhere. They touched the ground, and Knuckles let go, running for the nearest platform. Metal Knuckles quickly followed, engaging his boosters as he blasted down the passage. Knuckles was just about to start heading up the incline when Metal caught up to him. He jumped, barely clearing the enraged robot. Metal pulled up in time for Knuckles to start punching him in the direction Metal head been doing the same earlier.

They fought up the incline and were now on a much smaller platform, but also clear of all obstacles. Metal Knuckles was able to throw off Knuckles and the two stood on opposite sides of the platform.

“That’s it. I’ve had enough of this. I’m going to get rid of you once and for all!” Metal said.

“I’d like to see you try. Face it, you’re obviously running out of power. With any luck, you won’t last much longer, so why don’t you just give up now and hand over the shards peacefully.”

“Like I said earlier, I can’t my mission. Now, it’s time to end this.”

“Then you leave me no choice. I’ll just have to destroy you and return the Emerald shards to Angel Island!”

* * * * *

Meanwhile, near the aforementioned island…

A small beeping, barely audible, started to ring out. Then a voice. “All available troops report to the following coordinates.” Down in the water, was a pile of rubble, which appeared to once be some kind of platform. It started to shake, and a tall figure stood up from it, his metal body rusting slightly, but still in fairly good condition. His eyes lit up red, and he looked up at the sky far above him. “MS mk.3 reporting for duty.”

————————————————————————————————————

Previous Chapter.

Index.

Next Chapter.

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