Sonic Series Fan Fiction ❯ Verisimilitude: Invasion ❯ Noxious Peak ( Chapter 6 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Keiji: For this chapter I predict....BLACK ARMS! Oh yeah, and I hope you're all keeping track of how many Chaos Emeralds Robotnik's got.
Kiraa: This chapter makes me want to laugh evilly. Seriously, if you saw the events in this chapter coming....well you're obviously a genius and too clever for me. But if you didn't see this coming, but it doesn't just seem thrown together, then I consider my job well done. I want to rant on events presented below....but that'd give away stuff. I guess I'll save all the rantage for the reviews, ne?
Disclaimer: I do not own Sonic the Hedgehog, or any of the other character from this franchise. They belong to Sega and the people that created them. This is a work of fan-written fiction by Stari Zmaj studios and is in no way being used to make monetary profits.
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Chapter 6
Noxious Peak
On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)
Under normal circumstances, a fall from a great hight would not be life threatening to either hedgehog. Both were adapt at protecting their bodies with chaos energy, no matter whether a Chaos Emerald was within the vicinity or not. Shadow, despite some rather sever burning and injuries caused on impact, survived falling through the atmosphere back to the solid earth. A fall from the Egg-Fort seemed like a leap form the shortest swimming pool jumping board in comparison.
But then again, he'd gone through the atmosphere and hit the ground in his near indestructible super form, which was not an option at the moment. Rather to be safe then sorry he figured. Fortunately for both hedgehogs Tails had already spotted them and was swinging the X-Tornado around to pick them up. Unfortunately he had to cross the rear of the Egg-Fort to do so, and just as the jet passed the giant war machine it opened up with all its rear facing weaponry.
Shadow fancied he heard Sonic scream something, though the wind of the fall certainly blew away any meaning he could have derived from it. The X-Tornado pulled a sharp turn to get away from the Egg-Fort, no problem it could always take a wide circle and pick up the hedgehogs from a different angle. And just as this assurance passed Shadow's mind one of the Egg-Fort's lasers struck a solid blow to the back of jet, slicing through one engine and moving on forward to strike at the airplanes right wing.
Flames erupted as the jet finally pulled out of range of the Egg-Fort, leaving a long black line through the sky in its wake. There was a light from the jets front, it's Chaos Emerald core coming to life as the jet took to relying on the Emerald's Chaos Energy to stay in the air. Another explosion rocked the jet as the light erupted, and now there were flames licking out from underneath the cockpit. The aircraft flipped twice mid-air as it veered sideways and its nose dipped toward the ground. And in that position it fell like so much hulking metal toward the unforgiving forested ground below.
Shadow cursed under his breath. Really, if you wanted something done right you just had to do it yourself. He reached behind him into his quills and pulled out the violet Chaos Emerald. It's surface was still dull and sheenless, but beggars couldn't be choosy. A cry from above drew his attention to Sonic who seemed to be trying to doggy paddle through the air to reach Shadow now. They were falling pretty fast, and waiting for the jet had already cost them precious seconds.
Sonic was on his own, as far as Shadow was concerned. He mentally reached for the energy of the Chaos Emerald, tugging it out with a lot more force then was usually necessary and having to practically bend his mind backwards to get it to do as he wished. Just as he felt the pulse that was Chaos Control envelop him he also felt a hand grab his foot. Before he could look to see what the sky vanished.
There was a brief moment of vertigo, as he moved through space, wrestling with the energy around him to keep the movement under control. But then the strain on the Chaos Emerald snapped, and Shadow was brought back into the light and sound of the real world a good ten feet above the ground. At the very least he'd managed to slow his descent so that there was in no danger of going ker-splat on impact.
Not that it was much of a comfort when he landed front first. Belly flops on water was one thing, but belly flopping the ground was a whole other. Another figure hit the ground beside Shadow, accompanied by the by a yelp. Shadow lifted his head after half-a-seconds recovery to glare at the blue hedgehog that had so kindly decided to accompany him and maid a safe Chaos Control with a weak Chaos Emerald damn near impossible. He was also deadly determined to ignore his own pain... ignooooore... but damn it hurt.
Sonic for his part didn't care about Shadow's glares. Apparently having landed back first, the blue hedgehog was in his own little world of pain. The roar of the Egg-Fort passing above them had both hedgehogs attention back to more pressing matters quickly enough though. Shadow half expected for the machine to open up with its arsenal and blast them to bits right then and there, but the fortress turned aside, gaining altitude as it moved to cross over the nearby smoke puffing mountain peak on who's foothills Sonic and Shadow had landed.
Shadow scrambled to his feet, fully intending to continue the pursuit on the ground. He was confident that if nothing else he could keep the fort in sight, and something that large would have to set down sometime. But just as he took his first step a sound akin to cracking glass drew his attention to the Chaos Emerald that was still clutched in his hand. Even as he stared at its lifeless surface the jewel grew vines of splits and cracks before completely bursting into shards, and those shards in turn dissolving into nothing more then useless, massless, energy in the air.
For a while Shadow was dumbfounded by the event. All of his experience told him one thing, Chaos Emeralds didn't break. They were items of power that had survived thousands of years of abuse and mistreatment, they were not fragile, they did NOT break, even if you dropped a ten ton solid block of steel on them. And if a Chaos Emerald did shatter, it would probably do so in a massive explosion of its own Chaos Energy, or so he'd always figured...
'Damn it, what's going on?' All the world seemed to have been turned upside down within the matter of a month, which only felt like a couple days to Shadow, and his only chance for answers was puttering over the mountain and getting away it seemed. More determined then ever Shadow took off after the retreating Egg-Fort, if he had to run over the whole mountain then so be it.
But again he was halted before he could take any more then a few steps, and certainly before he had the chance to kick in his own jet shoes, by a shout from behind. “Shadow, wait!” Shadow slid to a halt and turned with his, by now very customary, glare towards Sonic. The blue hedgehog was also on his feet, but he certainly wasn't in a rush, nor did he seem at all disturbed by the sudden breaking of the Chaos Emerald.
“Tails crashed that way.” Sonic stated instead, pointing with a finger in the general direction of a large cloud of smoke which was puffing into the sky. Shadow gave the blue hedgehog an incredulous look. “Do you know what happens to jets like that when they crash, there's nothing left worth finding.”
“Duh, but Tails would have bailed out before then.”
“And I should care, because...?”
“He crashed trying save us!”
“K, so? If the kid's alright he'll catch up on his own. Robotnik's getting away.”
Shadow didn't delay any longer, even as Sonic called his name again the black hedgehog was speeding off up the mountain and in pursuit of the Egg-Fort. It wasn't hard going at all, the mountains slope, though rocky and thickly tree grown, was smooth enough to make jetting over its surface quite easy. It was a good mountain for running all things considered, even if it was a volcano. Or so Shadow figured until the ground began to quake.
The entire side of the mountain bucked under Shadows feet, sending the black hedgehog skidding on his hands an knees. Far above, the mountain's top belched out its built up internal pressure, releasing a particularly huge gust of gases and ashes. The black cloud puffed up and out, mushrooming over the peak and surrounding area. It wasn't a long event, but it certainly gave Shadow pause, it was unlikely that the entire mountain would erupt though so it was less then a second after the ground had settled that he was moving up the mountain side again.
400 feet further up all thoughts of pursuit, Chaos Emeralds, and vengeance were wiped from his mind. He'd come across a cave, fully intended to just continue on past it, until he felt the Chaos Energy oozing out of its entrance. Thick, black, it felt like half coagulated blood and muck. Shadow stalled before the cave entrance, clearly recognizing the dark energy that had marked and marred his memories of his last encounter with the Black Arms.
Looking inside he saw that the cave was long, leading in a narrow tunnel into the mountain, and far up ahead in its darkness he cold even make out a degree of light. For a short while he hesitated there. Common sense said that it was generally bad practice to walk inside of an active volcano. Instinct was quite shrilly screaming for him to distance himself from this place as much as possible. And against all that curiosity begged to find out what had become of those monsters that had attacked him. Curiosity was also backed by vengeance, Shadow was ever a sore loser when it came to fights, and something...more.
Cautiously he entered the cave, the black tar-like Chaos Energy latching onto him, making every injury seem more pronounced, more painful. With gritted teeth Shadow pushed onward. The cave really was a mostly straight tunnel, and its later sections looked like they had been dug out in a hurry, large enough for one big Black Arms to fit through, but showing no more work then that. Not even any supports had been put in to keep the path from collapsing.
The light Shadow had seen from the entrance was emanating from the surrounding rocks themselves. Further down the passage and away from the revealing sunlight the black Chaos Energy clung to everything, making the very surfaces of the cave glow a pale, faint, bloody red. That far down, the energy felt like Jello. A thick mass of not quite solid that was hard to breath in and even harder to move through. It weighed on top of Shadow making him hunch to bare its presence and pass on.
“What are you doing?!” The question was whispered though it carried the force of tone that a shout did, much like the one of surprise Shadow gave as he jumped away from the voice that had hissed so close behind him. He turned to see...Sonic. Shadow hadn't realized just how on-edge he was until the blue hedgehog had startled him. His heart was beating hard, his breath came in gasps, and his limbs shook from tension. “You...” he growled unable to get any more out between his surprise, anger, and confusion.
Just how did Sonic do that? People weren't supposed to sneak up on Shadow, that was his job, and they certainly shouldn't be able to do it in the middle of a very echoing and silent cave. Sonic for his part was hunched over as well, his eyes darting every which way as if a monster was liable to jump out any second from behind every dark little corner and cranny.
“What are you doing down here?” he restated his question, Shadow finally gaining back enough of himself to glare at the blue hedgehog. “What's it look like?” he shot back, not sure if he himself had a decent enough answer to Sonic's question.
“Spelunking, but couldn't you have found any nastier places to do it in?”
Shadow stared at Sonic, surprised initially that the blue hedgehog could feel the dark energy that flowed about them. Though that said, even somebody as Chaos Energy retarded as the blue hedgehog's fox sidekick would have been able to not pick up on the general 'ick' feeling of the area, and Sonic was certainly capable of control Chaos Energy enough to enter a super form. And now that he thought about and took stock of his surroundings, that all consuming and pressing feeling of the black energy had lessened with Sonic's appearance. As if it were aversive to his presence.
“I thought you were looking for your heal-clinger.”
Sonic frowned at Shadow's new term for his friend, “Tails can take care of himself.”
“Oh, and I can't?”
Sonic just looked at Shadow, the frown gone to be replaced by a half smirk. Really, the blue hedgehog's silence was answer enough all its own. With a growl Shadow turned away from Sonic and stubbornly started walking further into the cave, he didn't want to start a fight right here, not if there were Black Arms further in the cavern.
“Where are you going?” Sonic whispered behind him, loath to move any further into the mountain.
“Just follow, you'll see something interesting.” Shadow bet they would. Let's see how Sonic would handle the Black Arms. That would teach the blue hedgehog not to make light of Shadow, or call him crazy.
“This is a bad place, and THAT'S a bad idea.” Sonic hissed and Shadow had to work hard not to jump in surprise again. The blue hedgehog was now beside him, and his eyes were cast forward but always darting around for any sign of trouble. Shadow watched, and listened, yet even when he was searching for that tell tale sound of movement he could barely hear more then a whisper of fur on fur, and that was only when the cave narrowed forcing the two hedgehog's closer together. There was no sound to mark the rise and fall of Sonic's feet, not even the blue hedgehog's breathing was audible. If Shadow didn't regularly glance to his side, he might have thought that Sonic wasn't there at all.
It was disconcerting to say the least, especially when one counted in the fact that Sonic was injured and shouldn't, by all accounts, be able to move as he normally would. Shadow gave the gashes along the other hedgehog's back an inquiring look. They'd seemed to have stopped bleeding, though it was hard to tell much more then that in the darkness.
The air around them got increasingly thicker and hotter, the tunnel narrower, as they proceeded on a steady pace downward. The only thing that was going up was the level of light and the amount of resistance put forth by the black Chaos Energy. Just as the narrow cave began to widen out into a large brightly red lit cavern though, the two hedgehogs hit a proverbial wall.
Well, they didn't hit it as much as sensed its presence right ahead. Sonic had stopped a couple feet short of it, but Shadow had dared to go as far up to the wall as he could. Both hedgehogs were in shock at the site before them. As Shadow had predicted, the cave was full of Black Arms, though not singularly them as a sizable number of animals and mobians could also be seen, which perhaps wasn't all that surprising. The one thing Shadow hadn't counted on was all of them being so...dead.
The cavern ahead was carved into bridges and platforms, magma bubbling audibly and visibly underneath the rock formations. And every available flat surface was covered in bodies. Even as shadow watched, one platform gave way under the magma's heat and collapsed into the liquid rock, spilling its macabre cargo into the pool of red where the bodies burst into flame before being consumed entirely. As this happened a sickening wave moved through the black Chaos Energy that surrounded the entire area, the invisible undulating mass shifting and growing.
Shadow looked upward, his eyes following the stacks of rocky platforms that climbed the mountain's insides ever upward where they disappeared into blackness. He had little doubt that those other platforms were similarly decorated to the ones stretched before him. He had no proof of this, but instinct told him the grizzly scene was the same throughout.
He raised a hand and moved it forward. He could sense the barrier just ahead, like the surface of a bubble, barely there and easy to pass through. But before he could push his limb through, it was grabbed viciously by Sonic as the blue hedgehog dragged him away from the imperceptible edge. “Are you insane!” he hissed almost directly into Shadow's face even though there really didn't seem to be a reason or need to be quiet and not shout anymore.
To make his point Sonic kicked a loose rock into the cavern, it passed through the bubble surface barrier letting out a gush of superheated air that had both hedgehogs stepping even further away from the cavern entrance. Right before them the relatively reddish stone turned dark and black as it was broiled in the heat of the cavern. Shadow unconsciously tightened the hand that had almost passed into that heat into a fist.
So why did he still feel like trying to pass through the barrier?
“We're leaving.” It was a deadpan order from Sonic, the blue hedgehog holding tight to Shadow's arm and pulling him back the way they had come. Shadow snarled and tried to pull out of Sonic's grip, his mind felt foggy and he still felt like he had to enter the cavern. Sonic gave the black hedgehog a strange look before giving a vicious tug on Shadows arm, causing the other to stumble forward at which point he shoved him quite roughly ahead and against the cave wall.
The rock was hot and sharp, burning and cutting at Shadow in turn. The pain was immediate and clear, overpowering the fog on his mind, while Sonic continued to push him froward from behind. The pace of their retreat increased bursting into a run when the mountain shook around them and they heard the magma in the cavern gush and rise. Far above they could here another split running through the mountain and more gas and ashes be released from its top. All the noise seemed to echo eerily in the dead cavern, like a beast that had just been denied a particularly tasty meal.
They didn't stop until they were back in the open and a good couple yards from the cave entrance. Sonic collapsed against a tree, leaving fresh blood on its bark, while Shadow just stood aimlessly nearby. Something had wanted them, he thought, turning slowly to look back up at the cave entrance, wanted him at least and been very adamant about it. Since he'd gotten close to and completely focused on investigating that opening he'd been in its trap. He wondered how many other caves there were around here, how many more held the same luring snare.
A shiver ran through him, he'd have walked right into his death more then likely if he hadn't been stopped. His gaze turned to Sonic. The blue hedgehog was busy trying to look over his shoulder at his reopened wounds and muttering under his breath, apparently undisturbed by what they had just seen or what had almost happened. Somehow this seemed completely out of place to Shadow, or maybe it was his own loss of control and confusion that spawned the feeling.
“Those were the Black Arms.” he said somewhat lamely, gesturing with the back of his hand at the cave, and feeling all the wile that this was somehow just another one of his delusion induced dreams. Maybe he'd been knocked out when he landed and none of this had actually happened.
“Looks like something already took care of them then.” Sonic said, giving up on twisting his neck to impossible angles and instead directing a frown back at the cave. He seamed to shiver slightly before turning away from the place with a sick look which was erased the next instant as the one way mirror barrier fell shut behind his eyes. He began a slow, for Sonic at least, walk down the mountain. Finally, that was too much for Shadow. Could the blue hedgehog be any less concerned or bothered about this.
“That's it!?” he exclaimed, rushing to catch up with the blue hedgehog, and by force of will ignoring the bright red gashes that were so clearly visible now along Sonic's back. They didn't seem as deep as he'd thought them at first anyway.
“What's it?” Sonic turned his head to give Shadow an honestly curious look. Or it might have been honest if the blue hedgehog's eyes hadn't returned to being is unreadable as ever.
Shadow had to take a second to really gather his thoughts. Words and speaking wasn't something he did much off, and when things seemed so out of balance that just made things doubly as hard. “We just saw no less then a couple hundred corpses, most of them from an alien race-”
“They're aliens?” Sonic interrupted but Shadow just kept right on going.
“-in a place that feels like someone turned tar into Chaos Energy,-”
“Very poeticaly descriptive.”
“-and before all this you saw a Chaos Emerald shatter,-”
“Actually, that was probably a fake.”
“-and all you do is.....A fake?”
“Yup, fake. Not real. Man made, if you count Eggman as a man instead of an egg anyway. And fakes don't take too well to heavy use, they break. Real Chaos Emeralds don't break.”
Shadow stopped in his tracks for a second while Sonic kept right on walking, though it didn't take long for the black hedgehog to be right back at the blue one's side. “But I stole that thing out of the museum.” There, it was out, and Shadow really didn't care what Sonic did with the revelation.
Which was apparently no revelation at all. “Duh, you think they'd keep a real Chaos Emerald in the museum after the first one you stole? You think I'd have given it back if it had been real?”
With no verbal ground left to stand on in that subject, Shadow jumped ship. “And all those bodies?”
“Nothing I can do about that.”
“You could stop it.”
“How? I'm not a scientist, the research and puzzle solving's Tails' gig.”
Again, no verbal ground to stand on. “So thats it.”
“Yup, that's it.” Sonic nodded, picking up his pace.
“Really?” Shadow said to the air, not all that eager to remain with the other hedgehog for any longer. Being with Sonic was akin to entering the twilight zone. 'Forsake your sanity all ye lost ones and beware of low flying chilly dogs,' that's what the warning sign would say.
“Come on, if we don't pick up the pace, Tails'll get back to the city before we do.” Having put both of their speed prides on stake now, the blue hedgehog took off. Shadow shook his head again, things just weren't clicking into place the way they were. Besides, wasn't Sonic injured? He really shouldn't run like that with his injuries and Shadow should probably cut all ties and connections here and now for that matter. It'd be safer for his mental health in the long run.
And yet his feet fell into a run, and then a skate, as he followed Sonic. No, that's wasn't right, he was just heading in the same direction as Sonic. There, that line of thinking he could accept of himself. Once they reached the city it'd be good bye and separate ways.
Behind them the mountain rumbled and spewed thick black smoke into the sky and even further beyond that, the azure green eyes of Chaos viewed the these eruptions as the Egg-Fort continued on its way. The knowing light of familiarity was erased from the beasts eyes though, as Robotnik's voice cut across the intercom and called it back to the upper decks. The watery beast turned away from what it knew so well, it had a new master to follow. One that relied and trusted on it to do its new job properly and faithfully.
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Profile: Sonic the Hedgehog
If his erratic behavior, flip flopping mood, and general life style didn't give it away, Sonic is one insane hedgehog. Really, friends like Tails might stand up for the hedgehog, but even they admit that the hedgehog is not quite as mentally stable as most people. There could be quite a few causes.
The most obvious explanation to come to mind are his rings, or lack thereof. Sonic is known to use rings, though its certainly in a way far different and removed from how other beings employ the mysterious objects. He doesn't ware them, instead he uses them much like Shadow uses his Chaos Emeralds, to amplify his skills and strengths.
Does that mean that Sonic's madness stems from the plague and his suffering, if not from the physically degenerative aspects of it, the mentally deteriorating consequences? In some ways, yes, Sonic's instability can be almost directly linked to the plague, but that's neither here or there, nor is it the time to reveal such things.
More importantly to identifying Sonic and his mentality is the very thing that sets him apart from the rest of this world. No one can deny that Sonic can go at impossible speeds, and do it almost easily. And anyone that has ever had the experience of moving at those speeds in something like a vehicle will attest to the tunnel vision hat is inevitably suffered. For a person to run at above sonic speeds, their mind has to be quick to process visual input and then move the body to avoid obstacles.
When it comes down to it, Sonic is more along the lines of insane that a genius would posses. His own mind just sometimes moves faster then others, or he himself, can keep up at times. His erratic behavior and mood are just facets of this fact, thus the existence of his many dualities. He's lazy but hates having to wait for people, he's very much in control of his person but he often enough ends up tripping over himself literally and metaphorically, he is almost painfully kind and yet at times aloofly cold and impersonal, he often has a lot to say but little patience to stand around and actually take the time of day to say it. The world must seem like a very slow place to Sonic the Hedgehog.
There is much more that could be said in regards to Sonic, but such topics will have to be postponed till a later time.
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Published on: September 25, 2007