When it came to dealing with Dr. Robotnik the United Federation and their military unit the Guardian Units of Nations, or G.U.N. as they were often referred to, had a difficult task to handle. Unlike the world famous hero and speedster Sonic the Hedgehog, GUN couldn't simply wander the globe as they desired and eliminate whatever they came across. Every act was a carefully penned out plan of diplomacy and bureaucracy before any agent was allowed to step foot onto another nation's soil. This often gave Eggman the time he needed to plant himself somewhere and begin his operations without the locals even being aware of what he was up to before it was too late. Though when he did let something slip, GUN was fast to act on it with the best agents for the job.
A United Federation's helicopter lowered down over a clearing in a forest as three figures leaped out of the side of the airborne vehicle. One landing swiftly and sturdy, another lowering herself carefully by the wings on her back and the third dropping to the ground with a heavy thud as his metal feet sank into the soil. Once they were all delivered the helicopter quickly departed from the scene and the trio began forward through the woods.
"So this is the Frog Forest?" The black hedgehog said as he took in the surroundings. "Been a long time since we passed through here."
"Around the time I found the both of you." The bat woman said as she walked alongside the hedgehog. "Lucky for you two that things worked out so well."
"Combined efforts have lent to a greater number of destroyed Eggman robots." The mechanical man replied, providing affirmation to her statement in his unique way.
The trio had taken on the nick name Team Dark, due to their various sordid origins and often times attitude towards others. Though they weren't the most friendly group they often got the job done and worked hard to protect innocents whenever the need would arise. Since they were able to operate as a unit of just three members and accomplish so much made them a valuable asset to GUN who would deploy them into any situation that couldn't be handled in a more direct or diplomatic way. Rouge the Bat lead the team through the trees, doing their best to avoid the giant frogs that called the forest home. Only a few managed to get in their way and thankfully the renegade Eggman robot Omega was able to be talked down from using his flame thrower to convince the natural wildlife to move out of his path.
"Eggman sure is getting bold." Rouge said as she looked at the map their superiors had provided her. "Putting a factory down in the middle of a forest. Did he really think no one would notice him?"
"The Doctor was never one for subtlety when it came to conquest." Shadow the Hedgehog answered as they traveled. "It's more concerning he put an entire factory together before anyone was able to catch on that he was in the area. Assuming he even is here."
"All the better." Omega replied. "If there wasn't enough Eggman robots to provide resistance then I would have declined the mission." Rouge sighed and shook her head.
"Well I guess it's good someone will be enjoying their work today." Looking over the map she then put it into a side bag she'd been wearing strapped across her chest. "We'll be coming up on a cliff soon that should give us a good vantage point to determine our point of entry."
"The front door." Omega declared. "It is likely to have the most enemies."
"I'll take it into consideration." Rouge said with a hint of sarcasm to her voice. If Omega noticed he didn't say anything to acknowledge it. True to her word the trio found themselves on the edge of a cliff that looked even deeper into the forest over a canopy of trees. Said canopy was spotty as much of the forest had been cleared out and cut down, serving as fuel for the odd shaped building that sat like a blemish amidst the trees. It was of course designed in Robotnik's own image, a dome who's front had extending doors that resembled the mad doctor's giant mustache and two windows above to match his glasses. Robots walked in and out of the walled off complex through a large front gate, carrying in logs of wood and in come cases animals to be processed into who knew what inside.
"I'd say we found it." Shadow commented, looking at the surrounding area. "He's been hard at work. Every inch of this place is crawling with his machines. Even the sky has look outs." Above the building and surrounding forest were various robots shaped like giant wasps, no doubt meant to act as an alarm system in case anyone tried to sneak up on the factory unannounced. "Getting in unnoticed won't be easy."
"Why would we not want to be noticed?" Omega asked.
"Because not all of us are made of pure metal." Rouge answered him, pulling out a pair of binoculars to get a better look at their target. "According to Intel the power source for the factory should be in the back. If we can get there and destroy it we might be able to shut down his whole operation. GUN can do the clean up after we silence the target."
"I doubt that will take care of the individual robots." Shadow said as he looked over the machines beneath them. "One way or another we'll have to deal with the fall out of this army attacking the base when we shut it down."
"This is a good plan." Omega stated. "We'll let Rouge and her squishy body handle the boring parts while we destroy Eggman's robots."
"I never actually agreed to that." Shadow said, not one to back down from a fight but also not looking to put himself into the middle of a war zone. Though their plan had already hit a snag as Rouge was surveying the landscape and spotted something else of interest.
"Looks like we're not the only ones who decided to join the party." She said gazing in the opposite direction of the base. "Take a look, it's your favorite person." Rouge offered Shadow the binoculars while Omega refocused his eyes to allow him to see the distance at which she'd been referring to. It wasn't long before Shadow spotted the color of blue in the far distance and who she'd seen.
"Sonic." Shadow grumbled, the blue hedgehog striding confidently towards Eggman's base. "Of course he'd show up and complicate everything." Rouge was grinning as she nudged Shadow.
"Take a look behind him." Both Shadow and Omega's bodies adjusted to view past Sonic and spot the orange and pink figures that were following behind him.
"Amy." Shadow said surprised seeing the pink hedgehog girl trailing behind Sonic.
"The mutant fox creature as well." Omega stated, referring to Tails who was also following along with the team. "I do not believe this will cause issue with our intended plan." Even if Omega saw no issues with Sonic's presence Shadow was predictably less welcoming at the sight of the other hedgehog.
"He's leading them into a war zone!" Shadow complained. "I bet that moron doesn't even have any idea what he's doing. We're shutting them down, right now!" Tossing the binoculars back to Rouge, Shadow leaped off the cliff and down into the forest below. The fall was high but Shadow kicked himself off the cliff side and used his jet propelled shoes to slow his decent and land without concern. Racing off towards the other three heroes that were looking to stop Eggman. Leaving Omega and Rouge behind.
"Should we stop Shadow from getting into a confrontation with the blue hedgehog?" Omega asked Rouge, not having much of an opinion about Sonic but unsure how this was going to play into their mission. Rouge was smiling though as she put her binoculars away into her bag and jumped onto Omega's back, holding onto him.
"Nope. In fact we'll let him blow off some steam at Sonic for a bit. Take us in after him, Omega. I've got a plan that I think is going to work out for all of us."
"Looks like you were right about Eggman setting up here, Tails." Sonic commented as he looked at the flying robots high up in the sky.
"I can already hear a bunch of his robots in the forest." Amy said as she looked around them, keeping close behind Sonic as they walked.
"He's probably trying to produce as many robots as he can before anyone notices what he's up to." Tails elaborated. "The longer this goes on the more he's going to have."
"Well too bad for him it won't be going on much longer." Sonic said with a confident smirk. Normally by now he would have gone racing into Dr. Robotnik's factory to bring everything to a halt. But with Amy and Tails along for the ride he had to slow things down so they wouldn't get left behind. Once the action got under way he was sure they'd be able to follow behind him safely but it was smarter to approach as a team for now. As they continued the sounds of buzz saws came to life and the trio hid behind what standing trees were left. "Looks like we know part of what he's been up to."
Three bulbous, humanoid robots were working in a recently cleared out portion of the forest. Stumps filled the field and another one joined them as a tree fell from the buzz saw attached to the arm of a robot. The other two in position to catch it and load it onto the back of a cart. No doubt set up for them to pull back to the base and use the wood for fuel or building material in whatever scheme Eggman had underway. "I don't think they've noticed us." Tails whispered to the others.
"That works out fine by me." Sonic said as he got ready to rocket onto the scene. "Three piles of scrap coming up."
"Sonic, wait!" Amy whispered insistently. "Do you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Sonic asked, annoyed at being delayed but not wanting to rush into a trap.
"Something's coming fast... it sounds like-" She didn't get to complete her thought as a black and red blur ran through the clearing, tearing apart the robot with the buzz saw arm faster than anyone could see what happened. The other two robots looked on shocked as they held onto the tree over their heads, but before they could react there was another explosion as the blur came through from the other side of the forest and shattered one of the helper robots in an explosion. Without his friend to hold up the other side of tree the last robot struggled to keep it above its head. Stuck in place the blur came up behind it and slid beneath the robot, tripping it up and causing it to fall under the weight of the tree trunk. Flipping backwards the black and red figure landed on top of the fallen tree's trunk and smashed the metal robot beneath it. Once he'd stopped it was undeniable who was standing before them.
"Shadow?" Sonic asked confused.
"Shadow!" Amy shouted, sounding more excited than she'd intended to. Both Tails and Sonic looked at her confused and Amy just smiled shyly and tried to ignore that outburst she'd made. "What are you doing here?" The black hedgehog didn't speak. Instead he got off the log and walked up towards Sonic who was no longer hiding now that the threat had been eliminated. He stopped almost face to face with the hero and Amy and Tails looked on concerned that a fight might break out. It wouldn't the first time they'd fought each other just because they were annoyed by the other one's presence.
"You are to evacuate this area immediately." Shadow said point blank to Sonic.
"Excuse you?" Sonic asked, crossing his arms and not looking the least bit intimidated or surprised.
"Get out. All of you. This area is crawling with the Doctor's machines and they're all armed and dangerous."
"Yeah, we're already on top of that. The moment Tails got info on where Eggman was causing trouble next we headed out to take care of it."
"And I'm telling you to head back. This is a GUN operation now and you have no authority to be here."
"Last I checked I wasn't a soldier and didn't take orders from you." Sonic said, his patience growing thin with Shadow and his ego.
"Last I checked you were just a civilian who had no authority at all." Shadow replied.
"I've stopped Eggman more times than anyone can remember. Lot longer than you've been at it." Sonic was standing aggressively before Shadow who was nearly mimicking his same stance. Despite their clear animosity for each other the similarities were undeniable.
"You've done such a great job of it too. Seeing as how he's still here and causing havoc around the world." Shadow retorted.
"At least I've never helped him cause havoc." Sonic said and you could feel the quills on Shadow's back standing at those words.
"I never helped him once, I've only ever done what I was choosing to do."
"And we're supposed to be sure you're choosing to do the right thing now?"
"I'm not the one leading other civilians into a war zone!" Their noses were practically touching as they got in each other's faces before being forced apart by Amy.
"Okay that's enough you two!" Amy said as she got between them and pushed on their chests to separate them, both hedgehogs still angry but stopping at her intervention. Tails let go of a breath he'd been holding in the entire time. "Fighting each other isn't going to stop Eggman any faster."
"Thanks Amy." Sonic said with a smirk. "We don't need dark and gloomy over here getting out of control."
"That's enough Sonic." Amy said, surprising everyone into silence that she'd actually scold him. "Shadow's made some mistakes in the past but he's one of the good guys now, and it's not fair of you to bring up his old mistakes."
"Oh... I uh... yeah, you're right. I'm sorry." Sonic said, realizing he'd maybe gotten a little personal during that argument.
"As for you Shadow!" Amy said, turning to the black hedgehog now. "Maybe we're not soldiers but we've been fighting Eggman for a long time now. We're not weak or anything and you should respect that."
"I don't think you're weak." Shadow said, trying to sort out some complicated feelings as he was talking with Amy face to face. It was difficult as this was the first time he'd seen her since the last time they'd spent a night together. And that had been a time of leisure, not an operation as a soldier. "But it's dangerous here. What if all of you get hurt?"
"We've got Sonic with us." Tails chimed in. "Besides, Amy and me have been fighting Eggman robots before too. We can handle them."
"I couldn't agree more." A female voice called out as Omega came onto the scene with Rouge riding on his back. Hopping off her metal partner, Rouge approached the group while Omega observed the destroyed robots and gave Shadow a dirty look for getting to have fun before he'd gotten a chance to join in. "In fact now's a great time for us to join forces."
"Excuse me!?" Shadow said as he turned to face Rouge. "You want to bring them into the operation!? What will command say?"
"Probably that they don't care and I should use my best judgement." Rouge answered with a playful smile and Shadow grumbled. "Besides Tails is right, you're greatly underestimating how useful they can be. We're all after the same thing."
"Guess I shouldn't be surprised you two are here as well." Sonic said to Rouge and Omega. "So you really want us to team up and work together? I don't know if that's any better than just letting me run in and do my thing."
"That's because you don't appreciate a well thought out plan like some of us do." Rouge said to Sonic, then winked at Amy and Tails. "You two get it right?" She asked them and while Tails felt a little embarrassed getting winked at Amy seemed to be relieved there was someone else looking to diffuse the tension.
"I think we should go along with her plan." Amy said to Sonic. "I'm sure they thought up a strategy before they got here."
"Indeed we have." Omega announced as he was taking his time to crush a few bits of Eggman Robots that were scattered about. "Eliminate all Eggman robots." Shadow shook his head and put his face in his hand.
"That doesn't inspire a lot of confidence." Sonic said to the robot, but Omega didn't seem to care about his feelings on the matter. Thankfully Rouge was at the ready to make up for her partner's lack of details.
"Well that's one step of the plan." She said as she pulled out a map from her bag.
"Really!?" Omega said sounding about as happy as a monotone robotic voice could.
"Really." Rouge knelt on the forest floor while the others gathered around her map. "Robotnik's machines are crawling all over the forest, making it difficult to pinpoint them. But if we distract them we can get a unit here." She pointed to the area that was in back of the factory. "Our Intel says the power source for the factory is in the back. Though getting someone in there might be difficult even if we can draw the machines some place else."
"Actually it's kind of easy." Tails said. "I took pictures from my plane the Tornado before we came here. There's some air ducts in the back of the factory that you could use to sneak inside. If one of us crawled in through there while the other robots were busy, I don't think there would be anyone to stop them."
"Wow, well deduced. No wonder you're Sonic's little partner." Rouge complimented, the fox boy looking embarrassed again at getting so much praise. Amy couldn't help but grin seeing how happy he was getting from just a few words. "Okay then, this makes it even easier. We'll be dividing into three teams. One will be the assault group that will attack the front of the factory itself."
"Won't that put too much focus on the base we're trying to infiltrate?" Shadow asked but Rouge wasn't deterred.
"On the contrary. If we keep the focus on the front portion of the factory it'll look like a mindless attack directly on his base. Whatever defenses are present, even if Eggman is there himself, will all be focused there. Meanwhile a second team will be sneaking around to the back of the factory to gain entrance through those air ducts. Another team is going to distract and eliminate the air support robots to keep them from attacking or spotting the other two teams."
"Wow, you really are good at this." Amy said in amazement.
"Well I've been sneaking into places for a long time now. I just don't normally have accomplices to help." Rouge said happily, though the comment made Amy feel less secure knowing Rouge was often committing burglary in the past. Shadow wasn't bothered though, he expected as much from Rouge and her ability to plan. Also he was pretty sure how this would play out.
"Let me guess now." Shadow said. "Team one will consist of me and the slow poke over here." The black hedgehog glanced at Sonic, sure that Rouge wouldn't miss a chance to antagonize the both of them with each other's company.
"If that's a challenge to a race you're on." Sonic replied confidently.
"Next Team Two will be Omega and Tails as they deal with the air opponents based on Tails maneuverability and Omega's long range weapons. While you and Amy sneak in through the back to shut down the whole operation." Shadow concluded. "Am I correct?"
"Half right." Rouge said. "You've got their positions correct but our spots all wrong. Omega, you're going to be going into the front lines along with Sonic." Omega turned his hulking body towards Sonic as if to size him up. After analyzing him for a while he replied.
"I cannot guarantee as successful an operation by working with the Fake Shadow." Omega stated and Shadow had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing at Sonic's shocked face.
"Fake?" Sonic asked in astonishment. "I'm not the fake, he's the fake! I've been around a lot longer than he has."
"Negative. Shadow's life span exceeds yours by at least five decades. As he is the original hedgehog that moves at high speeds and conducts chaos emerald energy through his body, that would designate you as the second or 'Copy' Shadow."
"Well... I mean... fine, he came first. But you can at least stop calling me Fake Shadow. That'll get confusing." Sonic complained, Omega taking it into consideration.
"Understood." Omega stated, turning to Rouge. "I cannot guarantee as successful an operation by working wit Inferior Shadow."
"Oh for the love of..." Sonic grumbled, now even Tails and Amy were suppressing their laughter at Omega's bluntness. Rouge only kept smiling as she replied.
"Don't worry, I'm sure you'll be able to handle the extra heavy lifting. I need Shadow elsewhere."
"On air support?" Shadow asked. "I can use my Chaos Spear but it's a lot less reliable for accurate shots at long range." Rouge just shook her head.
"Wrong again, you're being a little slow yourself today Shadow." Rouge teased. "I'll be performing air support along with Tails. You'll be with Amy on infiltration." At the suggestion both Shadow and Sonic took a look towards Amy, the pink hedgehog surprised at their sudden glances her way. In unison the two rivals looked at each other and Sonic spoke up.
"I don't approve of this." Sonic said sounding concerned.
"Do not fear." Omega interjected. "During my attack on the Eggman robots there is only a thirty percent chance that I will shoot you along with them." He paused considering this. "Thirty-five percent, but it will likely not be a fatal shot."
"It's not you I'm worried about." Sonic protested. "Tails can mostly handle himself on his own but I'm just not comfortable leaving my friends' safety in the hands of other people." It was clear which person he was most concerned about but Rouge stepped in to ease the tension again.
"You shouldn't fret your blue head, I'll keep your little brother here safe and sound. Besides if he's as strong as you say maybe I'll be the one he's going to be watching out for. Isn't that right?" Rouge asked Tails and he was only able to manage a nod in her direction. "Perfect! As for Amy she couldn't be in better hands."
"You sure about that?" Sonic asked looking at Shadow.
"I wasn't the one leading her into danger in the first place." Shadow said. "But I'll be sure to keep her out of it."
"Gotta wonder if things get tough you won't just consider protecting your own neck first." Sonic retorted and it looked like another fight was about to break out, though this time it was Rouge that got between them.
"This is the best plan for success." Rouge said firmly. "The longer we wait the more damage gets done to this forest and the stronger Eggman gets. You've got your assignments. Any other objections?"
"None." Shadow said quickly.
"I'm all good." Tails said eagerly.
"I will manage within these parameters." Omega responded.
"I'm okay with this." Amy said after taking a moment to think it over. "Don't worry Sonic, I trust Shadow. If everything goes according to Rouge's plan we won't even run into any danger."
"...fine." Sonic finally agreed. "But I'm holding you to Rouge's promise. Everyone comes back okay." He said looking directly at Shadow. The black hedgehog crossing his arms and glaring back at Sonic.
"Don't get hit by a stray bullet. Omega's got more of them than you'd think." Shadow replied. The parties gathered their things and separated into their assigned teams, some more reluctantly than others. Sonic walking off with Omega and trying to get him to refer to him by his own name. They eventually agreed upon "blue object" and Sonic took that as the best he was going to get. Rouge took Tails by the hand and lead him back towards the cliff side where she'd originally scouted their mission. Once things got underway they'd be the next team to move out and take action. Which meant Shadow and Amy were left to wait until the attack started before making their move.
"So..." Amy said as Shadow began moving into the forest to get into position. "Looks like it's just you and me again."
"Yeah... Looks that way." Shadow agreed, feeling more awkward and uneasy now that Sonic was away since he didn't have anyone to focus on with anger instead of other emotions that were bubbling up inside.
Eggman's forest base was as automated as all of his machines, the humanoid figures carrying in carts of lumber and animals in a per-determined and almost rhythmic pace. The robots marching in through the front gates of the walled off fortress like area, which were secured closed behind them with giant metal doors. Afterwards completing their journey across the long court yard where various robots were cutting up and building things like carts and cages to bring in more materials and animals. Once the carts reached the dome building itself the mustache shaped gates would part open to let them into the facility and close shut afterwards. Two secured and locking gates leading into a fortress and factory that was producing who knew what. All manned by machines that never tired and knew no fear. This was the merciless efficiency of the Eggman Empire.
A recently arrived cart carrying a caged giant frog was let inside the front gates, passing through as the animal croaked helplessly from its captivity. As the gates large doors were pushed inward by the helper robots to close up again they were suddenly met with resistance as the two robots couldn't move it the final few feet to close them completely and lock up. One of the robots looked to see what was obscuring the doors progress and was met with the face of another, larger robot.
"Pardon me." The large robot said, its arms holding the doors apart. "Would this be the main focal point of Eggman Robots in the area?"
"Affirmative." The smaller robot replied to what looked like another Eggman robot.
"Excellent. Is there an alarm system to notify the other robots in the case of an attack?"
"Affirmative." The robot replied again.
"Excellent. Now would be a good time to deploy this system." The large robot's clawed hands retracted into its arms, leaving gaping holes in their place that shot out an explosive attack like a cannon. The force of the blast echoing across the forest and flinging the doors open so quickly they broke off their hinges when they hit against the concrete wall of the fortress. Once broken the doors began to fall inside the courtyard, right down on several building robots and the giant frog they had recently captured. Though a speeding blue blur ran past the door way and freed the frog from its cage, slicing the top of it clean off and pulling the amphibian away from the danger as the doors fell down.
"On your way, big guy!" Sonic said to the frog as it croaked happily and began taking large leaps towards the exit and back to the forest. As it left Omega approached Sonic over his own wake of destruction. "Cut it kinda close there, don't you think? You nearly crushed that frog."
"Animal life preservation shall be left to the blue object." Omega replied. "My mission priority is the destruction of Eggman robots." To add to his point Omega's hand changed to a machine gun that fired off rounds of bullets which ripped to shreds several of the builder robots nearby.
"You certainly don't waste time."
"Indeed. You are too slow." Omega said, Sonic not sure if this robot was actually trying to annoy him or not. Was it that smart? Before he could ask further an alarm system began to ring out across the fortress and the sound of metal feet marching from all directions their way accompanied it. "Finally!"
"Too slow huh?" Sonic said. "Say, how many robots do you think you destroyed already?"
"Approximately eighteen since our mission began."
"Eighteen huh? Pretty sure I can rack that number up fast enough."
"A contest? Accepted!" Omega said and turned his other arm into a machine gun as well to greet the robots from the forest that were pouring into the court yard from their previous activities of gathering materials. "Do not disappoint me."
"Heh, that's my line." Sonic said, his feet on the move shortly after speaking those words.
Taking her bag off of her shoulder, Rouge set her equipment aside as she prepared for the mission to take place. Standing on the edge of the cliff, Tails was near by as they waited for the signal from Team 1 to begin. While she felt confident in their success she could see that Tails was a little nervous. Possibly due to being separated from his friends and maybe being stuck with a woman he wasn't familiar with. It was kind of cute but she needed him to be focused. "Are you ready for what's coming next?" She asked trying to make her voice sound pleasant and friendly.
"You bet! Arial combat is my specialty. It's too bad I don't have the Tornado to assist us though."
"That's your plane?"
"Pretty impressive building a plane and piloting it at your age." Tails looked away from her compliment.
"Thanks! I just... kinda like to build things." Something seemed to occur to him from her statement. "But don't let me being younger fool you, I'll be able to fight just as well as Sonic!" He really did come off like Sonic's younger brother. Even if they were clearly unrelated.
"I'm counting on it. Everyone's going to be depending on us to keep the enemies out of their reach from attacking them."
"Right!" Tails replied enthusiastically. "Um... Ms. Rouge? Will Amy really be okay with Shadow?"
"Are you worried about them?" Tails nodded his head to her. "You don't have to be. Shadow's probably the strongest one out of all of us. If he's with Amy then that means she's in the safest hands possible."
"Okay, if you're sure."
"I'm not just sure, I can check on them at any time." Rouge got closer to Tails and let him look at her ear. "This here is a communication device. Shadow has one too and Omega has his built into him. With this I can talk to either one of them as long as I like."
"Oh, okay then. That's a relief."
"Good to hear." Rouge said and leaned forward, petting Tails on the head. It was an act that was usually reserved for children which Tails was trying to assure her he wasn't, but she also knew the position she was standing in would keep his attention on her. When his eyes darted down for just a moment towards her chest she was positive he was old enough that she could keep his mind focused on them instead of the others. "Now when the fight starts if you need to stop and rest you can do so, okay? I'll be fine."
"Oh, I'll be okay too. I get tired sometimes but if I need to I can really push myself. Besides I carry Sonic around all the time while flying so if you need it I can support you too."
"What a gentleman! I never get to work with chivalrous men like you anymore." Rouge complimented and Tails looked away shyly again. Though their conversation was interrupted at the sound of an explosion echoing out through the forest. Standing upright Rouge looked down at Eggman's fortress and even with the distance she could see the giant doors had been blown off their hinges at the front gate. "Looks like Omega's fired up. Let's get going." She commanded and took the sky with her wings, Tails following behind her. Sure enough the flying robots were heading towards the fortress and they needed to intercept them. Turning on her ear comm Rouge gave the word. "Heard that Team 3? You're on stage."
"Copy that." Shadow said in response to Rouge's message through his ear comm, though the explosion that echoed through the forest was enough of a signal for him already. "We're on the move, let's go."
"Right!" Amy said cheerfully as Shadow and her went into the forest to circle around the base and sneak in from the back. Early on the thumping of metal feet could be heard all around them and by hiding carefully they were able to avoid any conflict while the robots abandoned their previous work and ran to defend their stronghold. As they came across them Shadow and Amy took the time to release any captured animals they came across before proceeding along their way again. It wasn't long until their path was completely unobstructed and they were able to run without fear of being stopped or caught.
"It looks like Omega is going to get to have a lot of fun." Shadow commented noting the lack of enemies in their path. "The skies are clear for us too."
"You can count on Tails to come through when he's needed. I'm sure everyone's doing just fine." Amy stated confidently.
"Right." Shadow replied, not sure what else to say. He usually only went on missions with Omega and Rouge and when they talked it was always about the task at hand. Otherwise conversation was kept to a minimum. With Amy next to him it felt like there was something more he should be doing though. Some kind of acknowledgement to make after they'd been apart for so long. "Are you truly okay with a mission like this?"
"You're not doubting my strength again are you?" Amy asked, sounding annoyed.
"No, not at all. It's just dangerous."
"I'm pretty familiar in dealing with danger while fighting against Eggman." Amy educated him. "I've been doing this sort of thing since I was just a girl you know."
"You've been fighting the Doctor since you were a child?" Shadow asked sounding amazed.
"Well... I guess really I was just following Sonic. But I managed to help sometimes. I think I'm strong enough now that I can fight on my own without needing his help."
"I see." Shadow said. He was moving at a slow enough pace that Amy could keep up with him easily and so they could spot an enemy in case it got the drop on them. Though with all the robots having cleared out there wasn't much need to be careful. He could have ran much faster without her. But that wasn't what he wanted. He just didn't know how to work in these kinds of weird conditions with a partner he'd previously been on a date with. Fortunately a little voice in his ear helped him along.
"She wants to know why you didn't ask her on a second date." The female voice whispered to him.
"Rouge!?" Shadow blurted out, surprising Amy as she looked over at him.
"How dense can you be? You guys have this time alone, make the most of it."
"I... you... shouldn't you focus on your mission?" Shadow said, Amy giving him an odd look as she couldn't hear Rouge's side of the conversation. "We don't need 'updates' like this, watch your own back."
"I could do this mission in my sleep. Besides my partner is actually pretty reliable. Now be a good boy and talk to her about why you haven't called. And don't turn this comm off, I'm going to listen in."
"...copy that." Shadow said, trying to hide the annoyance in his voice. Amy seemed to note this though.
"Yes. Rouge is just... giving us updates from her vantage point. Looks like our path is all clear."
"Oh, that's good. She sure is reliable."
"And impressive too, being able to fight and plan this whole 'mission' thing we're doing. Normally I end up just running into the fight without knowing what's coming."
"She's a very good partner to have on your side." Shadow heard a girlish giggle in his ear as Rouge must have been enjoying the compliments.
"Yeah, I mean... a woman like that is hard to compete with." Amy said thoughtfully.
"I know what you mean, it's why she's the field leader and Omega and I are just the muscle half the time." Shadow's thoughts were interrupted as his figurative and literal wing woman gave him more advise in his ear.
"As much as I'm enjoying the compliments you're making her feel inferior. Step it up, Romeo." Rouge advised him, Shadow gritting his teeth. He was supposed to have the easy mission. Compared to this he'd rather be in the thick of battle fighting robots next to Omega.
"I should probably... apologize to you." Shadow said to Amy which caught her attention quickly.
"I never got in touch with you again. After that night when we were out together."
"Oh. That." Amy said, also sounding nervous now that he brought it up. "It's okay, I know you do a lot of really important work. Silly things like going on dates probably aren't something you're interested in."
"It's not something I'm comfortable with." Shadow admitted. "You were my first one after all." Amy was quiet at that revelation, not sure how to respond to it. "But I did enjoy it."
"Really!?" Amy asked sounding cheerful. "I didn't think you'd want to go. I thought maybe that you thought it was too much trouble or that you were just... interested in someone else."
"I kind of thought the same about you." Shadow admitted.
"Oh, well I mean... I'm still a free girl. I can go out with anyone I like, right?" Tap dancing around his name still, despite having spoken to the blue hedgehog not that long ago face to face. "It doesn't matter though. I had fun with you."
"Doing good, Romeo." Rouge's voice spoke into Shadow's ear, the encouragement not really helping him keep his wits together. Shadow and Amy were getting to an area that was less open space and more condensed trees, spots that the robots hadn't gotten to yet in their logging expedition. Slowing themselves down they moved through the forest carefully on their set path. With the pace lessened Shadow tried to come up with what to say next.
"I wanted to call." Shadow admitted. "Maybe I was afraid of how you'd answer."
"It would have been a yes." Amy said confidently.
"But our last time out together had so many problems."
"Maybe. Ups and downs, right? Like how we talked about before. Sure there were good and bad parts but when I think back on it I really enjoyed that night."
"... I'm glad." Shadow said and Amy just smiled at him happily, a look that caught him off guard. Focusing back to their task at hand they kept on the move but Amy was having more trouble than Shadow getting through the forest with less of a direct path than they had before. She was nimble and quick but didn't have the strength and skill Shadow did for moving through such a dense area. "Do you want me to slow down for you?"
"I'm sorry." Amy said with disappointment. "After all that big talk about being able to hold my own on an adventure I'm becoming a burden to you."
"Not at all, I'm the fastest person in our squad. I'm used to accommodating my team mates short comings."
"Excuse me!?" An offended female voice said through his ear piece and Shadow did his best to suppress the smile that nearly broke out.
"Do you think it would be easier if you carried me?" Amy asked and Shadow stopped walking completely at the suggestion.
"You mean... holding you while I run?"
"Yeah, if you think it'll make things work better."
"Are you comfortable with that?" Shadow asked, feeling nervous at the idea of holding her for the rest of the mission.
"Of course, I know I'm not as fast as you. It's not the first time I've been carried along to get places faster." Amy said, not finding a problem with this type of situation at all. If she was calm enough about it then Shadow should probably stop being nervous himself. Though Rouge didn't miss this opportunity to leave her own thoughts.
"Going to carry her are you, Romeo? Just be careful where you put those hands."
"You're not helping." Shadow mumbled back into his ear piece.
"What?" Amy asked confused.
"I... I said you're right, it makes the most strategic sense for us to continue that way. How should I...?"
"If you think you can I'll just lay in your hands and hold onto your neck. That way I won't fall, alright?"
"Sure... sure, that's fine." Shadow said as the two approached each other. Amy put her hand on his shoulder, getting ready to climb up into his arms before stopping. "Is everything okay? I didn't do something wrong did I?"
"No, you didn't. But can you hear that?" Amy asked as she looked around the woods.
"Hear what?" Shadow began looking around himself as well. There were the faint sounds of the battle going on in the distance at Eggman's strong hold but they hadn't got close enough yet that they'd hear the sounds of fighting clearly.
"It's coming from over there." Amy said point away from the fortress. "It's like... an engine or something? I can't quite make it out but it seems kind of familiar. Like I've heard it-" Amy didn't have a chance to complete her words as a metallic shine bounced off the sun through the canopy of trees from an object that was approaching her faster than she could react. Though it never got to her as Shadow's hands shoved her hard out of the way and a blue blur whizzed past her and into him instead.
Her body hit the ground roughly, along with the sound of something slamming hard against a solid object and Shadow's voice shouting in surprise. Amy looked up to see a blue figure had him pressed against a tree trunk by the throat and was holding him in place. "No." She whispered. The blue figure looked like her long time crush but his body was made of pure metal instead of the blue quills that covered the speedster hero. Eyes glowing red as it focused on its current target.
"You!" Shadow shouted as he held onto the metal arm that was pinning him down with both his hands, trying with all his might to pull it off. Though the machine had him stuck and was locked into place to keep him from escaping. "Metal Sonic, why are you here!?"
"Target Shadow the Hedgehog." The robotic voice said, scanning his opponent. "Attempting to infiltrate Dr. Robotnik's fortress in a sneak attack." The robot brought his other arm back and flattened his hand, his fingers pointing forward like a spear. "Threat assessment states you should be terminated immediately." Shadow looked wide eyed at the sharp fingers that prepared to pierce his skull. Thankfully they never completed their task as a large hammer swung against the robot's body and knocked it off its feet and away from Shadow. With his throat free he coughed to catch his breath.
"Thanks." Shadow said as he rubbed his neck. Amy standing near by with her weapon of choice now in hand, the large hammer having knocked the robot back but not destroying it.
"No way I'd let that monster hurt you!" Amy said, sounding furious enough that it surprised even Shadow. "Should you tell Rouge about this?"
"Right! Right, Rouge are you picking up on-" Shadow felt his ear and noted that his ear piece had gone missing. Likely knocked out when Metal had slammed into him and pinned him against the tree. Shadow looked around the forest floor for his communication device but it was no where to be seen.
"There shall be no reinforcements." The robotic voice said as it held up Shadow's ear comm between its metal fingers. Crushing it with ease and sealing off their only way to ask for back up. "If you resist your termination will be more painful than necessary."
"Hmph. Fine then." Shadow said as he took a fighting stance next to Amy. "Truth be told you've got exactly the kind of face I was looking to beat on. Crushing you like a soda can is going to be a highlight of this mission."
"You will fail." The robot said.
"We'll see about that." Shadow replied in a cocky tone. Amy however wasn't finding as much amusement in this. In fact she still looked as angry as Shadow had ever seen.
"What are you even doing here? I thought you'd be off looking to lose against Sonic again." She taunted, but it didn't deter the robot as he began to approach them.
"Termination of primary target Sonic the Hedgehog will come after. Securing Eggman Fortress is priority one." Metal explained.
"That a fact? So you think you can 'terminate' us and just move on to your next targets do you?" Shadow asked, not really interested in the robots motivations but looking to keep it talking while he tried to come up with a plan of attack. If this thing was any where near as armored as Omega he'd have his work cut out for him in breaking it down.
"Negative." The robot answered. "Target Shadow the Hedgehog will be terminated before he can infiltrate Eggman Fortress." Metal's head turned to look at Amy next. "Target Amy Rose shall be restrained and disarmed. At which point she will serve as a hostage to weaken the moral of the other targets. Allowing for easier termination."
"The heck I will!" Amy shouted and brought her hammer over her head, looking to crush the robot where it stood with a forward leaping attack. However instead of dodging Metal Sonic stood still and lifted his hand, catching her hammer and stopping the impact with its hand.
"You may resist if you like." The robot said, sounding almost happy. "I do not mind inflicting damage as long as you survive to be used later."
"Going to carry her are you, Romeo? Just be careful where you put those hands." Rouge teased through her ear comm as she flew through the air, gaining momentum and breaking one of the wasp like robots in half with her feet as she collided with it. The robots were armed with long range weapons but their attacks were slow enough that she was able to predict where they'd fire long before the bullet was launched. Letting her swoop around her opponents and destroy them with ease. Tails was doing just as well as herself, breaking robots in half by a similar method of plowing into their weak jointed areas. Having him as back up let her keep tabs on Shadow.
Maybe eavesdropping on their conversation was rude but he needed the encouragement to get their conversation off the ground. After all she'd divided their teams this way for the specific purpose of getting him and Amy alone together. Any one of the other four could have performed either task (with the exception of Omega, he was much better suited for direct combat.) So putting Sonic out of the way to let them talk was just what she was after. Besides mixing the two hedgehog rivals would have made a powerful team but one that was likely to butt heads as much as they were to accomplish their mission.
As she flew around she could hear Amy through Shadow's ear piece, she was talking about a sound. Something like an engine. Rouge didn't know what that meant but suddenly there was a shout from Shadow and nothing more. "Shadow? Shadow what's going on?" Rouge stopped her attack and was flying in place now. "Shadow, respond! Do you copy? Shadow!?"
"There shall be no reinforcements." A robot voice said before the signal went completely dead. She didn't know what that meant but knew it must have been something none of them expected. Tails was finishing off the last of the flying support robots when her comm started to beep, letting her know there was a signal coming from the other channel. Flying back towards the cliff Rouge landed and hit her comm's switch to talk with her other partner.
"Omega to Agent Rouge, Eggman robots have nearly been wiped out. Also I'm in the lead in my contest with the blue object."
"Oh, that's good! Good to hear!" Rouge said, trying to hide the worry in her voice.
"Please report on status of Team 2."
"Team 2 is doing great. In fact you can let Sonic know that Tails just finished off Eggman's air support for us."
"Affirmative. Please report on status of Team 3. Are they in position?"
"Team 3 is doing fine." Rouge said, feeling her voice waver as she said those words. Not wanting to distract Omega from his objective. But he was a robot and as such was capable of taking note of the smallest of details.
"Agent Rouge, please report on Team 3's progress. Are they in position?"
"They... I don't know." Omega didn't respond right away. "I lost contact, Shadow's ear comm was destroyed. I think they met with interference."
"Understood. Disengaging to provide support right away."
"Don't you dare!" Rouge said as she turned her back to Tails who was beginning to approach her. "You have a mission to complete. If you leave now that will jeopardize everything."
"But Team 3 requires support." It wasn't often Omega showed concern like this and it hurt her hearing him want to go help his friend but being unable to do so. Still if Omega left then all the robots might follow him. She couldn't have that happen.
"If you can complete your mission you have permission to provide support. But do not tell Sonic about any of this. If he finds out he'll abandon the mission without a second thought. I'll go in the mean time to back Shadow up, understood?"
"Affirmative. Omega out." It wasn't how she wanted things to go but if Omega was extra motivated he wouldn't play around as much with his opponents. Tails landed near Rouge and approached her.
"Hey, is everything okay? You look worried." Astute as always. She didn't want him to panic either so she had to approach this next part carefully.
"Oh! Everything's fine, nothing to worry about." Rouge lied. "Say now that our part is done we should see if we can find Shadow and Amy. They might already be at the base but if not we can back them up."
"Wouldn't it be a better idea to go help Sonic and Omega?" Tails asked, proving that he understood what a better strategic move would be. But she needed him to follow her lead.
"We don't want to interrupt their fun. Believe me they're completely in control of that situation." Rouge said as she went to her bag and pulled out her binoculars, trying to see if she could spot some sign in the distance of where Shadow may have been stopped. "Now if I can just get an idea of their position." As Rouge scanned the forest canopy for any kind of movement there was a sudden blaring noise that interrupted her search. An alarm was sounding off from the fortress.
"That doesn't sound like the last one." Tails said as he looked down to take note of the large, mustache shaped gate opening up from the dome building. Rouge looked out to see that not only were there more robots coming out of the fortress, even larger ones than previously seen on the forest floor, there were more air support units flying out as well. Bigger and stronger looking machines shaped like hawks and bats that were taking to the skies and spreading out.
"This can't be happening." Rouge muttered to herself as the new batch of enemies poured out of the base. "He was keeping a force like that in reserve the whole time?"
"Don't worry, Ms. Rouge. We can take them too just like the last ones." Tails said enthusiastically to her. The confidence in his voice was nice but she was still worried about Shadow.
"Right. Right, we'll win this fight too. We all will." She said, attempting to be as energetic about this as Tails was. As the fox boy took to the air Rouge followed behind. "Please be okay, Shadow."
"That's forty!" Sonic shouted as he curled his body up and sliced through three more of the attacking robots. "Hope you're keeping a fair score over there."
"Forty-one." Omega said as he separated the head of one of Eggman's robots from its body, crushing it in his hand. "I fear we may run out of targets before long."
"Guess that means we'll know who won soon." Sonic said with a confident tone to his voice. "This has gone pretty easy, don't you think?"
"Affirmative. These Eggman robots have proven to be quite weak." Omega said as he shot a few slugs into an attacking saw bladed robot that fell from the well placed bullets.
"How well do you think the others are doing?"
"I shall inquire on their status." Omega said as he picked up a robot he'd intended to destroy and held it up by its head. Saving it for after his report. Opening his communications app he awaited for the person on the other end to pick up.
"Rouge here." The voice in his head replied.
"Omega to Agent Rouge, Eggman robots have nearly been wiped out. Also I'm in the lead in my contest with the blue object." Omega said as he crushed the head of the robot he'd been holding while making his call, letting the body fall to the ground as it flailed about.
"Oh, that's good! Good to hear!" She replied, more excited than he'd expected her to be.
"Please report on status of Team 2."
"Team 2 is doing great. In fact you can let Sonic know that Tails just finished off Eggman's air support for us." Omega looked over at Sonic to see he was running circles around one of the saw blade wielding robots, causing it to cut the other robots around it to pieces.
"Affirmative. Please report on status of Team 3. Are they in position?"
"Team 3 is doing fine." Something was wrong. He could hear it in her voice. Not only that she didn't provide him with any details as to their current status.
"Agent Rouge, please report on Team 3's progress. Are they in position?"
"They... I don't know." This was not what he'd expected to hear. Omega used his leg to crush the flailing robot at his feet as he concentrated on Rouge's words. "I lost contact, Shadow's ear comm was destroyed. I think they met with interference."
"Understood. Disengaging to provide support right away." Just like that he turned to exit the fortress doors he'd destroyed moments earlier.
"Don't you dare!" Rouge commanded, but Omega didn't stop. "You have a mission to complete. If you leave now that will jeopardize everything."
"But Team 3 requires support." Omega said, continuing on his path.
"If you can complete your mission you have permission to provide support. But do not tell Sonic about any of this. If he finds out he'll abandon the mission without a second thought. I'll go in the mean time to back Shadow up, understood?" This wasn't what he wanted to hear. Rouge was less equipped to handle combat than he was. If Shadow actually met with something that could pose a threat to him then Omega was the best candidate to support him. But Rouge was the commander for their mission and she was logical in her response.
"Affirmative. Omega out." She gave him parameters to allow him to exit his mission. He just had to meet them. Turning to face back into the fortress Omega raised his volume on his voice. "Sonic the Hedgehog!"
"Hey, you actually used my name!" Sonic said, dodging attacks gracefully from the mob of robots around him.
"Take position upon my back." Omega ordered, running into the center of the battle and knocking enemies out of his way with brutal swings of his arms.
"On your back, why?"
"Otherwise your percentage of being shot will rise from thirty five to ninety percent." Omega concluded, extending his arms outward as they unfolded to reveal a second row of holes for a Gatling gun stored within him. Sonic didn't waste time and did as the robot suggested, hopping onto his back and holding on as Omega's upper body rotated around in a circle and unloaded massive amounts of fire power onto their enemies. Waves of robots fell in the wake of bullets as they showered across the field, stray ones missing their targets lodging into the concrete walls and leaving deep impacts. Once it was over Omega's arms let out an exhaust of hot air and folded back into their normal form, his body stopping its spin and righting itself. Hopping off his back Sonic took in the sight around him.
"Whew, I guess you were full of bullets after all." Sonic noted the level of destruction Omega had left across the fortress. "If you could do that the whole time why didn't you start it right away?"
"It is less fun that way." Omega said. "I am departing."
"What, you're leaving!?"
"Affirmative. All Eggman robots have been destroyed. There is no longer a need for my presence." Omega began walking out of the fortress immediately, heading for the exit to get to the forest.
"But what about the entrance? How are we going to get this open?" Sonic asked as he motioned to the giant mustache shaped metal doors that prevented their entry way. Just looking at them you could tell they were much thicker than the doors that had guarded the fence.
"It is a door, handle it yourself." Omega responded coldly, not looking to waste another second. Though he never made it out of the fortress courtyard as a new alarm sounded, stopping him in his tracks. Turning back around Omega and Sonic watched as the gates to the fortress opened on their own, slowly parting to reveal what was inside. More robots. Not just more of the same but also larger ones, thick in body and designed for battle instead of labor. Three colossal robots marched out with the smaller robots around their legs to accompany them. One of the giant metal monsters raised its arm, firing wooden spears at high speeds at Sonic. He dodged them easily but it was clear that their previous fight had just been a warm up to Eggman's real forces.
"These things are quick." Sonic said, looking at the sharp spears that had tried to skewer him. "Guess the contest is still on." Rather than reply Omega looked at his arms, spinning the Gatling gun inside and finding it was empty after his last barrage of attacks. Walking up next to Sonic he picked up one of the wooden spears and threw it at one of the labor robots that approached, piercing through the robot's glass eyes.
"Affirmative. We shall continue." He noted the flying robots that were escaping as well, realizing they would be an obstacle for Rouge and Tails to provide support to Team 3. As Sonic ran into battle Omega felt an odd sensation of concern in his mind. "Do not fail, Shadow."
"Raaagh!" Amy shouted as her hammer swung down and collided with the dirt, missing her target again. The steel Sonic doppelganger was dodging her swings easily and he might have been able to land a counter attack on her if not for Shadow's attempts to strike him as well. Though they proved just as unsuccessful as the robot easily used his jet pack and reflexes to expertly dodge each punch and kick. As frustrating as it was, Metal Sonic was dancing around them without much of a struggle.
"You will grow tired." The robot taunted. "I will not."
"All we have to do is break you before that happens." Shadow countered as he braced his legs and launched himself at the robot, but Metal was prepared for this as his body deployed an electric force field that pushed the black hedgehog back and onto the ground where he started. "Nnggh!"
"Weak." Metal said as he lunged forward to strike shadow with his sharp fingers, but was blocked by Amy's hammer coming down in front of him and intercepting the attack. With a shout she hoisted the hammer upward to force him back, gasping for air as she held her weapon aloft. Shadow got to his feet and stood next to her, also breathing heavily.
"This thing's sure annoying." Shadow said to Amy. "Got some nasty tricks up his sleeve too."
"Everything about him is nasty." Amy said, gripping her hammer tighter. "But I will not let him take me as a hostage again."
"Again?" Shadow asked, confused by her statement. Though they didn't get to dwell on it as Metal's body began to glow and the jet pack on his back fired up. "He's coming in for another attack!" When the robot fired forward Shadow and Amy jumped into the air together to dodge him. When they landed Shadow turned around to see Metal had collided with a boulder that had been lodged into the ground but was now shattered into rocks with the robot's attack. It picked up one of the large pieces and tossed it directly at Amy. "Look out!" Pushing her aside Shadow ended up placing himself in the path of the attack, getting hit in the side and falling back against the ground.
"Shadow!" Amy shouted, running over to help him. However she was stopped short as she felt a metal hand grab her by the back of her head, gripping her pink quills tightly and holding her in place. She grit her teeth with tears in her eyes, but didn't hesitate to swing her hammer around behind her to try and dislodge her attacker's grip. Unfortunately the robot predicted this, grabbing her hammer by its handle and pulling it from her grasp. With her weapon tossed aside Metal Sonic pulled her closer to himself and placed his sharp fingers against her neck.
"You cowardly piece of scrap." Shadow said as he pulled himself to his feet. The side of his arm where he'd been hit with the rock was bleeding but he ignored it, raising his hand and letting it glow with a yellow energy. "Release her!"
"Negative." Metal Sonic replied.
"If that's the way you want it I'll put several holes in you right from here." Shadow threatened, holding his glowing hand outstretched at his opponent.
"You will not." Metal replied, holding Amy in front of him. "Doing so would risk harming the pink hedgehog. You will not jeopardize her." Shadow kept his position, energy gathered in his hand and ready to unleash. But he hesitated.
"I can hit you without harming her." Shadow said.
"Can you? The likelihood of such an attack succeeding is low. Doing so may risk harm to her. Either by my actions." The metal fingers pressed closer to her throat. "Or your own."
"You... you won't risk it. You need her as a hostage." Shadow said, not moving from his position.
"Acceptable damage of the pink hedgehog is allowed. Even her corpse can provide sufficient assistance in lowering enemy moral." Shadow was frozen at those words, unsure of just what to do now. Amy however wasn't going to be silent through all of this.
"Shadow." She said, holding back tears. "Do it."
"What!?" Shadow exclaimed.
"Do it. Take the shot." Amy pleaded and Metal shook her by the back of her hair.
"Silence." The robot commanded but she didn't comply.
"Take the shot. Please. I don't want to be a hostage again. To let him use me against my friends. I'd rather be dead!" Shadow considered her words carefully, looking at her expression. Slowly he nodded.
"Alright... I won't let that happen. You won't be his hostage anymore." Metal's head snapped to look at Shadow, ready for his next attack. However in that instant the black hedgehog wasn't in front of them any longer. He'd disappeared. There was a yellow flash of light as energy shot out from behind Metal and Amy, severing the robot's arm that had been pressed against her neck and sending it flying through the air. Seeing her opportunity Amy turned around and kicked Metal's body, separating herself from him but losing a handful of her quills to his grasp in the process. She grabbed her hammer and backed away, seeing Shadow standing behind Metal.
"You did it!" Amy said, smiling despite the pain of having her hair ripped out of her head.
"Stopping time and holding chaos energy isn't easy." Shadow said. "But if I need to, I can do whatever's necessary." Metal turned its head to look at Shadow, eyes glowing as if to express the anger in being outsmarted. "You're done, robot. Next goes your legs and then your head."
"I think not." Metal replied as its arm crawled back to him by its fingers, picked up off the ground by the robot. Placing it against his socket the damage almost instantly repaired to itself, his arm functioning good as new. "You cannot harm me enough to cause permanent damage. You will fail."
"You are exceedingly good at making me angry." Shadow said, though not much more could be expressed as Amy took it upon herself to attack next, swinging her hammer at Metal's head. The robot managed to stop the impact of her hammer with its hand before she could connect. Shadow took this opportunity as well and dashed forward, throwing a kick at Metal's other side but finding his attack stopped just as easily. The robot took grip of both attacking limbs and spun himself around to toss Amy and Shadow away from him. The two colliding on the forest floor next to each other.
"I am losing patience." The robot said, clenching its metal fist. "I shall end this fight soon." Amy and Shadow got to their feet, both panting hard.
"What do we do?" Amy asked, clearly not ready to back down from this fight but recognizing how much difficulty they were having. "He's strong enough to block my attacks and can fix himself from yours."
"He's proving to be a more difficult enemy than I thought." Shadow said, glaring at his opponent. Though something occurred to him. "He can repair himself from my attacks... but he dodges or blocks all of yours."
"Yeah, it's really making me mad."
"But why go to the trouble of dodging you if he can instantly repair himself?" Shadow asked, Amy thinking about it but not having an answer. "Listen, I have a plan. But it's kind of dangerous. Do you want to try?"
"I trust you." Amy said with a nod.
"Okay, get ready."
"Your plans are futile" The robot said as he approached the two whispering hedgehogs. "Any further resistance will be met with a faster termination." Before he could finish his advance there was a flash of yellow light and a sudden attack upon his body as he felt his limbs separating from their attachments. Shadow had launched another volley of his Chaos Spear attack, most likely while time had been stopped for a split second. It was a lot of damage to take but Metal Sonic didn't fall. Using the jet pack attached to his back his torso stayed upright while his limbs began to instantly repair themselves.
"You're open!" Amy shouted as she leaped forward and swung her hammer down. There wasn't enough time to dodge, his body repair itself as quickly as it could. Instead he raised both his arms into the air to absorb the attack of her hammer, catching it by the flat of the mallet. His block was successful, but in the moment his metal hands had hit the hammer there was a sudden blast of force that pushed through his defenses and caused the hammer to swing down past his arms and directly into his head. Metal went flying backwards from the attack, rolling on the ground and righting himself up to see Shadow and Amy standing next to each other.
"Impossible." The robot said, a large dent in the side of its head that wasn't putting itself back together like his limbs had. "Amy Rose cannot swing her hammer with that much strength."
"You think so?" Shadow asked with a smirk. "Guess you just haven't figured it out." Metal Sonic's eyes flashed red, standing upright and starting the engine of his jet pack again. However his limbs were assaulted with another volley of Shadow's Chaos energy, ripping them apart. As he quickly began to reassemble himself Amy was moving forward, swinging her hammer horizontally at his body. The robot raised his repaired arms just in time to absorb the impact, noticing in that split second Shadow appearing in the air on the other side of her hammer. With an explosion of his jet shoes Amy's hammer hit with twice the force she could generate on her own, smashing Metal against its surface and making him fly away again. This time with a large dent in the side of his body.
"I understand." The robot said as it got to its feet. "A combination attack of the hammer and jet propelled shoes used to accelerate the strike with greater force."
"Guess you're smarter than you look." Amy said with a smirk.
"Not that it'll help him." Shadow said alongside her.
"Negative. By revealing your method of attack I have already calculated a method of counter attack." Metal Sonic explained, extending his limbs out to brace for her next strike. "It is impossible for you to succeed now."
"You think so?" Shadow repeated. "Amy, reel up for me would you?"
"You betcha!" Amy said and reeled her hammer backwards. Metal prepared for her advance but was surprised that instead of her running forward the impact came faster than he could have foreseen, Amy appearing before him in an instant and being struck hard enough to send his body flying into the air from the upward swing. After his take off Amy looked up to admire her work. "Wow, we really got him that time."
Shadow picked himself up from off the ground where he'd provided the additional blast of power for her swing with his shoes. "Nice hit, don't think he ever saw it coming."
"It feels weird teleporting." Amy said, looking at Shadow as he stood up. "Should we go for another?"
"Ready when you are." Shadow said as Amy reeled her hammer back.
While in the air Metal Sonic attempted to launch his jet pack to right himself for flight, but didn't get a chance as he was knocked up into the sky again from behind this time as the hammer struck his back. Amy and Shadow watched as their robot opponent flew farther up, Shadow's arm around Amy's waist and holding her close. "Let's go further up." Amy said and pulled her hammer back again.
"Further up it is!" Shadow agreed and in an instant the two vanished. Reappearing again to strike the robot into the sky again. "Want to go for a last hit?"
"Yep, the further up they go..." Amy said, lifting her hammer above her head. Swinging downward she felt her body instantly move from where they were to directly above Metal Sonic. Who got to see as the hammer came down upon his torso. "The farther down they fall!" She shouted gleefully as she hit him, the two now free falling back down towards the forest. Metal Sonic however was well ahead of their descent and crashed down onto the forest floor below, his body dented and mangled from the repeated strikes. As he tried to rise up from the impact he'd made into the earth he found himself assaulted by a volley of yellow energy that pierced his metal frame and scattered his limbs. An instant later Shadow and Amy appeared next to his body, Shadow stumbling but Amy catching him before he could fall. "You okay?"
"Yes, sorry about that. I'm not used to teleporting that much without a chaos emerald to assist me."
"You did great." Amy said happily. Looking at Metal Sonic struggled to repair himself her tone changed. "What about him?"
"Got enough strength left for a little batting practice?" Shadow asked, walking over to Metal's body and picking up his arm before it could reattach itself.
"Oooh, you really know how to show a girl a good time." Amy said as she pulled her hammer up, Shadow underhand serving her the robot's arm while she knocked it into the sky and away from where they were standing. They repeated this process over and over again, shadow pulling parts off the robot while Amy knocked them in different directions. Until they were left with just his head.
"Looks like this is the final home run." Shadow said looking at Metal Sonic's eyes. "Ready for it?"
"I'll terminate you." Metal Sonic said. "It does not matter if you destroy me. I will return. I will be repaired. I will take revenge upon you both."
"I think he's ready for it." Shadow said, tossing the robot's head to Amy. She swung harder than ever on this hit, knocking his head somewhere into the forest far away from the rest of his body. Using her hammer to prop herself up Amy took a few gasps of air. "Going to be okay?"
"Yeah... yeah, I feel great actually." Amy said, smiling at Shadow. "That was incredible."
"I couldn't have done it without you." Shadow said, Amy putting her hammer aside as it disappeared into a puff of magical smoke. For all of his own powers he still didn't know how she did something as crazy as that. He'd have to ask her sometime later. "We better get back onto the mission."
"Oh you're right! I completely forgot about it!" Amy said in shock, running up to Shadow and hopping up into his arms. "You going to be okay to run?"
"I'm the ultimate life form aren't I?" Shadow said with a smile as he took off into the forest as quickly as he could. "Let's take down the Doctor's fortress."
Back on the cliff side where Rouge had begun her mission she sat with her back against a tree, catching her breath and resting her body after an arduous battle. Tails was beside her and breathing just as heavily, the two of them having worked hard to defeat all of the flying robots that had been released from Eggman's fortress. Thankfully their numbers had been small compared to the ground troops but they were strong enough that she had to fight extra hard against them in comparison to the previous scouts they destroyed.
She wanted to go and check on Shadow but after that battle there was a risk she'd be a hindrance to him rather than a help. Running into another combat zone when she was this tired put her and her team at risk, making Omega the better candidate for support. Even if most of his weapons were depleted he'd never tire out. His own body enough of a weapon to provide back up. That left her in the worst possible position; waiting.
Her partner didn't seem to agree with her outlook though as Tails got to his feet and approached the cliff.
"Where do you think you're going?" Rouge asked.
"I'm going to go help Sonic. Then I'm going to go look for Amy." Tails answered seriously.
"You're not in any condition to do any of that." Rouge advised him.
"It doesn't matter. If I can help fight then I should help fight. Sitting around doesn't help anyone."
"Running into danger when you're exhausted doesn't help anyone either. If you get in the way and Sonic has to save you he could get hurt too."
"I know it's frustrating." Rouge cut him off. "We're the support team. That means we hang back until we're called in for support. So we should recover as much as we can before moving out."
"How come you didn't check in with anyone since we stopped fighting?" Tails asked and Rouge didn't answer him. "You told me everyone was okay but you haven't used that walkie-talkie thing of yours to see if that's true."
"Omega is fine. He can handle himself."
"What about Shadow and Amy?" Tails asked. "Shouldn't you be talking to them the most?"
"...fine, you got me. You really are a clever kid, you know that?" Rouge said. "I lost communication with Shadow during the first fight. His ear piece was destroyed. I imagine he was engaged in battle with an enemy we didn't prepare for."
"What!?" Tails shouted. "And you didn't tell me!?"
"I needed you focused on your mission, not theirs. If you didn't provide air support for Sonic then he could have been attacked by enemies he couldn't defend himself from. We have to trust Amy and Shadow can take care of themselves."
"No way, I'm going out there!" Tails said but was caught by the hand before he could move and pulled back down to the ground. He attempted to struggle but Rouge held him by the head against her chest and pet him.
"You're really brave and strong, but you're not invincible." Rouge said, feeling a frustrated tails shudder against her. "Sonic and Omega will finish their mission and head out the moment their done. Have faith in our friends. The moment we get word on the situation we'll move out, okay?"
"I don't like this." Tails said, frustrated.
"I know." Rouge said, keeping a hold of him against her and feeling his body relax finally. "But sometimes this is how a mission goes. I don't like it either."
Oil, circuits and parts scattered about as sharp metal hands ripped the innards out of a giant robot that had been toppled to the ground. The light left the mechanical giant's eyes as something vital was removed from its body and its functions ceased. Confirming the silence of his target Omega stood up over the body of his victim and scanned the area for more robots to destroy.
"Looks like we got them all." Sonic said, sitting on top of another metal giant he'd destroyed alongside Omega. "I didn't think Eggman would have this many robots hiding inside his base. But now that they're done I think we can get inside." The metal doors had closed and locked on the fortress once it had dispatched all of its warriors, sealing off entry from the two combatants. Now that there were no more robots to fight though Omega began walking towards the exit of the fortress. "Hey, are you looking to leave me again?"
"Affirmative. Eggman robot activity has ceased in this area. My mission is complete." Omega said without stopping.
"What about getting inside the base? There could be more of those robots in there."
"That is simple conjecture, without sufficient evidence to support the claim there is no reason for me to remain here." Omega said but was stopped short when Sonic raced around him and stood in his path. "Please move aside."
"What's going on with you? When we got here you wanted nothing more than to destroy robots in as many creative ways as possible. But half way through I saw you weren't taking your time anymore. It was like you were in a hurry and had some place else to be." Sonic asked, looking at the robot's eyes. It couldn't make expressions but somehow it did have a body language of its own. Omega stood completely still as he processed his answer.
"That... is not something I have to reply to."
"Fine. You've got a radio in your head, right? Can you find out why Shadow and Amy haven't stopped the factory inside the base yet?"
"I cannot contact them at this time." Omega stated.
"I... am not allowed to say." Omega said, stumbling a little in his answer.
"Are they in danger!? Did something happen!?" Sonic asked, connecting the dots with everything that had been going on.
"I must hurry into the forest... and was ordered to not answer that question."
"You... you're just as bad as all of them!" Sonic shouted at Omega, motioning to the robots they'd laid waste to. "How could you let them go out alone if you knew they were in danger? Don't you care about your friend!?"
"I was not allowed to let myself or you deviate from this mission due to how vital our role was. Now that it is complete I must go."
"Just do whatever you were ordered to!" Sonic shouted as he ran off into the forest, Omega stopping to consider if his actions had been right or not. Rouge's orders had made sense but if Shadow or Amy had been injured was that his fault for not helping them when he could? Before he could come to a conclusion on if he'd made a terrible mistake there was a sound of an explosion from behind him as the back of the fortress shook apart and smoke rose from the rubble.
"Shadow... you were successful!" Omega said with a tone of near joy in his voice. Rather than follow Sonic, Omega ran to the front of the Fortress and used his hands to pry the main gate open. He was going to confirm Shadow's status, even if it meant taking the shortest route possible to reach him.
Sitting on a log in the forest, Shadow and Amy looked on at the destruction of the back of the fortress that they'd caused. Just like tails had said there had been some air ducts to sneak inside and provided them with an easy entry and exit for their work. Between Shadow's energy blasts and Amy's hammer they'd easily laid waste to the machinery inside and caused enough damage for the facility to fail and buckle in upon itself. With their work done the two were enjoying a much needed respite. Thanks to the rest of their friends efforts they never encountered a single robot to stop their progress. Aside from the obvious one that nobody had seen coming.
"You know I forgot to thank you." Amy said as she looked up at the smoke trailing off into the sky.
"Thank me, for what?"
"For helping me destroy Metal Sonic."
"You don't have to thank me for that. If anything I should be thanking you. If you hadn't been there to help I might not have won."
"You would have." Amy said confidently. "Sonic has beaten him by himself before. You could have done it too. But I never would have been able to without your help."
"I see... you're welcome then." Shadow replied. He sat in silence with her for a while before deciding to ask the question that had been bothering him. "Back when we were fighting him, you said you wouldn't want to let yourself be his hostage again. What did you mean by that?"
"I guess I let that slip, didn't I?" Amy said with a shy laugh. "I told you that I'd been following Sonic around since I was just a girl. That even when I wasn't strong enough to do anything I was still trying to be part of the adventure." Shadow nodded to her. "Well on one of those adventures we ran into Metal Sonic for the first time. Instead of attacking us he kidnapped me to lure Sonic into a trap."
"That... sounds awful." Shadow said. "Being taken against your will... even just watching someone you care about taken from you." Amy noted a hint of sadness in his voice but decided not to pry on him right now. She was answering his question still.
"That was the moment that made me want to get stronger. To defend myself. But no matter how strong I got I knew that I still wasn't as strong as Sonic or even Tails or Knuckles. I'd never be as tough as them. So if that... thing! If it ever came back for me, I might not be able to fight it off. I'd be just a helpless little girl again."
"I didn't realize you had so much you were carrying on your shoulders." Shadow said, looking over at her. Amy turned to meet his eyes as well and smiled.
"It's kind of small compared to everyone else. But that robot was my biggest fear. The thing that reminded me of when I was too weak to do anything. Getting to smash it with you, I really appreciate it." Amy said, putting a hand on top of Shadow's. "Thank you for keeping me safe." Shadow felt his cheeks flush when her hand rested on his own but tried not to get overwhelmed with the sudden rush of emotions. Taking a breath he turned his hand around and squeezed hers in return.
"Any time." Shadow said. "I'm sorry about your hair though."
"Yeah I was trying not to think about that." Amy said, realizing she had a chunk of quills missing from the back of her head that was probably going to result in a shorter hair cut than usual when she got back home until they grew back out again. "But it beats losing my head." They both laughed, sounding very tired but relieved at the same time. Their hands lingered together, a feeling that was comforting to both (if not a little unnatural for Shadow). Their moment didn't last long however as Amy's ears seemed to perk up and her hand separated from Shadow's, a second later Shadow hearing the same noise and looking over to find a blue figure racing their direction. It wasn't as dangerous as the last one but it looked as angry at Shadow as the other metal version had.
"There you are!" Sonic said as he came to a halt, looking between Amy and Shadow. "Are you okay!? Omega said there was some kind of trouble."
"I'm fine, Sonic. Really." It was unusual to have him so concerned about her, but she'd be lying if she said there wasn't some enjoyment in this moment. "We ran into Metal Sonic but it turned out okay."
"You ran into... why didn't you call for help!?" Sonic said to Shadow, who got to his feet slowly after all the punishment his body had gone through.
"My ear comm got destroyed in the fight. Thankfully we managed to defeat him without any back up." Sonic looked from Shadow to Amy, noticing the chunk of quills taken out of her hair and the scuff marks around her body and dress from being thrown against the dirt so many times. His glare moved back to Shadow.
"You said no on would get hurt." Sonic shot at him.
"We did our best under the circumstances." Shadow countered.
"Well your best doesn't seem to be good enough. I should have been there instead of you." Sonic shot back, causing Shadow to grit his teeth angrily at him. Amy didn't need this right now and tried to stand up but found she was just too tired.
"Sonic, that's enough. Shadow helped me a lot. There's nothing to be upset about. Everyone's okay aren't they?" She asked him. "This isn't like you."
"I'm... sorry." Sonic said, shaking his head. "I'm just frustrated. Omega didn't tell me what was happening to you two. When I found out he'd been keeping that from me I just got upset because I thought that... you know?" Sonic said. Amy nodded to him and Shadow looked away. "I'm not actually mad at you." Sonic admitted to Shadow. "It's just I know how dangerous that thing can be. So when I heard you were ambushed I was scared of the worst."
"Well... I can understand your concern." Shadow said. "You've got a history with that thing, one I wasn't aware of until recently. If it's any consolation, I'm glad Omega didn't fill you with bullet holes."
"Not that he was trying to avoid it." Sonic said, which got a laugh out of Shadow.
"Speaking of which, what happened to-" as if to announce his presence the back of the fortress exploded a second time as debris was shoved aside and a robot emerged from the gaping hole.
"AGENT SHADOW, I'm here to support you!" Omega announced to the group of shocked hedgehogs that stood before him. Looking around himself Omega scanned the area for threats. "It appears the enemy you engaged retreated upon my arrival."
"Something like that." Shadow said with a smile, walking up to Omega. "How'd the robot hunting go?"
"Splendidly. Many Eggman robots were destroyed and I managed to beat the blue object's score by one point." Omega shared gleefully.
"You know I let you have that one." Sonic said with a smirk, Amy giggling at the friendly banter that was happening before her. A wonderful change to the arguing she'd seen earlier today. Not long after their reunion from the sky descended the rest of their team as Rouge and Tails came to a landing. "You guys made it! Did everything go okay?"
"We had to work pretty hard up there." Rouge said. "But you've got a good partner watching your back. Thanks to him we were just fine." Tails enjoyed the compliment but he moved to Amy first after they landed, looking worried.
"Are you okay, Amy? Rouge told me that something dangerous attacked you!" Amy nodded at him and slowly got to her feet, body sore from all that fighting.
"I'm alright Tails, Shadow kept me safe and sound."
"She says that but it goes the other way around too." Shadow spoke up. "Without her help we might not have gotten out of that jam." Rouge seemed very pleased with this turn of events, everyone being present and accounted for.
"We all make a pretty good team together. You three want to come back with us? We've got a ride that's going to pick us up to take us to GUN headquarters. But we can drop you off anywhere else you like." They group all looked among each other, Shadow and Sonic taking a moment to lock eyes as if they were deciding what was best. After a moment Sonic shrugged and shook his head.
"Actually I think I'll be alright on my own. We can leave the same way we came in."
"Well, if that's your choice." Rouge said. "C'mon boys, we need to report back to the commander. Nice work everyone." The groups said their good-byes as they parted ways, both heading the same directions they came. Though Shadow was stopped by Rouge when she gave him a nudge into his side. "Say Romeo, don't you think you're forgetting something."
"Oh. Right." Shadow said with a sudden realization. Turning around he ran back towards Sonic's crew. "Amy! Can I ask you something for a moment?" All three of them stopped but Amy asked her friends to wait while she met Shadow half way. When they were close enough Shadow lowered his voice to keep their conversation private. "Um... about what we were discussing before. That night out together? I know I'm usually busy with my work but... if you want to call then I'll make sure to get back in touch with you." It felt weird to have this kind of conversation, extending an invitation like this. But she seemed to appreciate it. Smiling Amy nodded to him and whispered back.
"I won't forget." She replied. With that they said their good-byes again and parted ways. Amy returning to her friends as they walked back together. Sonic was looking back at Shadow who was joining up with his team and at Amy who was smiling happily.
"What was all that about?" He asked curiously.
"Oh, nothing. Just a final congratulations on a job well done." Amy said coyly. The mannerism was different than what Sonic usually expected from her.
"That's all huh? You're sounding a lot like Rouge right now, you know?"
"Am I?" Amy asked happily. "Speaking of which, Tails how was working with her? Did you have a good time?" At that question the fur on his body seemed to stand on end as he remembered his mission with the bat woman.
"It went well." Tails answered quickly, rubbing the back of his head.
"Looks like you made a good impression on her." Sonic said with a teasing tone in his voice. "Keep this up and you're going to be a little heart throb."
"I-I-I don't know about that!" Tails stammered and Amy gave him a look.
"What exactly happened with you two out there?"
"Oh, nothing worth mentioning!" Tails said shyly, Amy deciding to leave it at that. Looked like she wasn't the only one that had an interesting wrap up to her adventure with her partner.
Hours later in the dead of the night, a round floating machine could be seen carrying a furious Eggman through the expanse of the Frog Forest. His fortress and factory having been destroyed before he'd ever gotten a chance to utilize it the way he'd planned and it left the rotund doctor in a foul mood. He had more factories of course, more places for his machines to be built and deployed from. But every time he lost some ground that meant his enemies gained more on him. "Curse that filthy hedgehog and his friends! This set up was perfect! How could he ruin everything in one day like this!?"
The floating vehicle hovered over a spot in the forest as a crane lowered down and picked up a blue metallic torso that laid on the forest floor. Once it was brought up into his ship he tossed it in the back with the rest of Metal Sonic's parts that had been scattered all over the forest. "Worthless bucket of bolts. You're lucky I keep bothering to rebuild you. After this blunder I should just melt you down into a table!" Eggman said to the pieces that laid behind him, scooping up the parts of his most menacing weapon as if he were playing a crane game in an arcade. "I can't wait till I find where your head went so I can really let you know how disappointed I am with you!"
Far away in another direction from where Robotnik was working, a blue metallic object sat in a tree where it had become wedged after being batted away by a large hammer. It was badly damaged but the light of its red eyes shined on faintly as it repeated the only thing it could focus on.
"Defeat Sonic the Hedgehog. Terminate Shadow the Hedgehog. Terminate Amy Rose. Defeat Sonic the Hedgehog. Terminate Shadow the Hedgehog. Terminate Amy Rose. Defeat Sonic the Hedgehog. Terminate Shadow the Hedgehog. Terminate Amy Rose. Defeat-" Despite being separated from its power source the head kept itself active, repeating its mantra again and again. Hours later Eggman would find the final piece of his creation and shut off his voice module when he got sick of hearing the machine continue to talk to itself. Despite this Metal Sonic didn't cease in remembering who had done this to him and what he planned to do when he met them again.
On a mission to destroy an Eggman Fortress, Team Dark encounters Sonic, Tails and Amy on the same mission as them. When the two teams decided to join forces, they're met with an unexpected attack by an old enemy.