The tall grass shined in the early-morning sun, glistening with dew. The sun had just come up and many animals were still asleep, save for one that was very much awake. A large blue bullet careened across the field, blowing aside or tearing up all of the grass in it's path: which led to the home of a fox. As it touched upon more stable ground, the azure sphere opened and unfurled, revealing itself to be a hedgehog. Before long, the large house he was looking for emerged from the horizon.
Slowing down before it, the hedgehog was curious as to why the front door was unlocked, but didn't stop to ponder why. Hurrying down the stairs inside, he called out, "Alright Tails! Eggman's already started! He's about an hour from Angel Island, so we can catch him if your new plane is as fast as you say it is," worry came to him when no answer did, "Tails?" He hurried into the main hangar to find his best friend sprawled over a swivel-chair. "Tails!" He grabbed the fox by the shoulders and shook him, waking the twin-tailed one.
Tails lethargically uttered through his dry throat, "Sonic?" He opened his eyes slightly to find those of his friend wide with urgency.
Sonic was still rushing, "Tails! Get up! We need to move fast to stop Eggman! We need your…" he looked ahead to find the aircraft's nose cone open, "Oh crap…" He ran to it, leaving the groggy fox to wipe his eyes as he examined the interior. "Oh no," he turned back to his friend, "The emerald's gone!"
Tails, upon hearing this, was jolted awake and he sucked in air through his teeth, "I…"
The hedgehog scanned his friend again, and his worry was visible when he came to the conclusion. "Rouge took it, didn't she?" before the canine could respond he finished, "It's all over your face, I can tell," making his head droop in shame.
"I'm sorry, Sonic."
The hedgehog drew a sharp sigh, "Now's not the time to be sorry, Tails. Not with what we need now... Alright. I need you to pilot the Tornado, we'll have to make do."
He swallowed and got up.
The bi-plane's soared through the day-lit sky, but both knew it wouldn't be fast enough. As they passed through a cloud, the two caught sight of the familiar floating isle, still burning and bombarded by the tremendous airship above. In a distant clearing, they saw a red figure waving at them with a series of missiles headed for it.
"There he is! Go low Tails, we'll catch him!"
Meanwhile an adrenaline-pumped echidna below was redirecting his attention at the incoming fire. Knocking aside some of the lesser shells fired at him with mighty fists, he then saw a huge rocket barreling his way. "Can't deflect that one!" he shouted to himself as he jumped far back against a leaning tree, before quickly leaping off with it detonating mere feet below him. Spread out, he took the force which pushed him straight up into the air, "Shit, that's hot!" Though burned and bruised, he could still maintain balance in the air, gliding through it. He then caught the upper wing of the plane and joined his friends as it pulled up.
"Knuckles!" the hedgehog exclaimed.
The echidna looked around at the aircraft he hung on, "Sonic! Tails! What kept you guys!? I thought you said your secret weapon could cut him off, but it looks exactly the same as your old plane!"
"This is the old plane!" Tails called back, "I couldn't bring the Hurricane!"
"What the hell happened!? He's been bombing the island for hours!"
"Rouge happened!" Sonic explained.
"What do you mean Rouge happened!?"
"She stole the Chaos Emerald I needed!"
"Damn it, of all times, now!?" the red echidna angrily shouted.
"Well, it's not like this hasn't happened before!" Sonic shot back, Tails winced through as he brought them over the main deck.
While they were quarreling in flight, a man watched them on video feed from the control room, scoffing at them. "Fighting the Eggnaught with THAT old hunk of junk? Ha! Do those fools honestly believe that will stop me? Clearly that fox-boy has no concept of an arms race," he nonchalantly flipped a switch on his console and spoke into the microphone, "ATA batteries online: there's a particularly annoying gnat buzzing around. Crush it!"
Within seconds, missiles were flying at the bi-plane like spray from the sea. Sonic was struggling to hold on, Tails pushing it to the limits to dodge and counter, while Knuckles was deflecting shots that came close. In spite of their efforts, the Tornado had sustained huge damage and was only a few feet feet from the deck.
"This is getting us nowhere!" barked Knuckles, "I'm carving my own path through! This thing sure as hell can't!"
"Knuckles, wait!" cried out Tails but it was too late, the echidna already jumped off and glided his way towards the bridge. Haphazardly smashing turrets and taking shots along the way.
"He's as headstrong as ever," Sonic remarked, "Too bad he's right. I'm going in, too."
"Sonic, don't!" the fox pleaded, "I can-"
"You can fly behind the island and have cover there. That's the best you can do."
Sonic turned to him with a stern look, "Now's not the time to argue with me, Tails!" And with that, he too jumped off onto the battleship.
Dejected, Tails put the plane in a dive to evade fire, pulling up towards the floating island. The Tornado was about halfway through its retreat when the guns finally stopped firing, now that they were scrap metal. He looked behind to find the deck a smoking inferno. Indignantly he banked around to search for any other threat or a place to land. Finally touching down, Tails got out to find the battle already over, Robotnik's escape pod slowly floating off into the distance. The twin-tailed canine drew a sigh, both of relief and frustration. His blue friend walked into sight through the smoke. "Well, looks like we won..." he sheepishly said to the hedgehog.
"Yep. We did," he replied, thick with exasperation. "Took a few hits, and caught some new burns, but we did."
"Oh, he's fine. But I don't remember him being that red." That moment, the echidna slowly stepped into view, pulling the barrel off a cannon on his way. Tails gulped at the nigh-murderous look in his eye, he had never seen him that angry before.
The red one spoke to them, "Well, I doubt we'll be having trouble with Eggman for a while."
Sonic's eyes narrowed, "Yeah…"
Tails weakly inquired, "Did you say something to him?"
"Oh, yes. I said quite a few things," Knuckles answered, "while I was crushing his arm into powder."
The yellow fox pulled back, "W...Wow."
Knuckles continued right away, "Tails. You said that with your new machine, we could intercept Eggman before he got here."
"And you were clear that a chaos emerald was very important in getting it to work, right?"
"And yet, you let Rouge take it from you?"
"Now, wait Knuckles," Sonic interrupted, "Maybe she took it without him kno-"
The echidna kept facing Tails, and continued to speak, "There is lipstick all over you, AND you have a hickey. I think you'd notice that." Tails looked down in shame. "Now I may not be the most experienced with women, and I may be gullible, but I don't let people take things I need right out of my hands!"
"I'm sorry," he answered before being pulled up by the collar and looked in the eye.
"I'm not asking for your apology, Tails! I'm telling you to grow a damn spine! You can't let people just walk all over you, you have to stand up for yourself! It's time to man up!" With that, he dropped him on the floor.
"Sonic…" he sadly asked his friend.
"Tails, he…" he tried to answer before letting out a weary sigh, "He's right."
"Now then," Knuckles sharply spoke to the two, "If you'll excuse me, I've got some fires to put out." And he lept off the deck and glided to the island below, leaving them behind on the slowly descending ship.